1864-A one-off review-First two episodes some notes and dialogue with review at the end. In Danish with English subtitles-On in the UK on BBC Four Saturdays @ 9pm. Minor Spoilers only.


Re-posted from original posting-notes to my readers- 9th May 2015:
Description of 1864- a Danish series  with English subtitles.

“Denmark, 1951. Young brothers Laust and Peter grow up in poor but safe conditions on the local estate in south Funen.  As their father returns with other soldiers, victorious from a three year war with Prussia, Laust and Peter become enamoured with the new Estate Manager’s daughter, the beautiful and fearless Inge.”

“Political forces consider incorporating Schleswig into the Danish kingdom, contrary to the signed peace treaty.  Prime Minister Monrad is inspired to patriotic eloquence by a performance of Macbeth, with the enticing Mrs Heiberg acting as his muse as the ruthless and manipulative Lady Macbeth”

With Lars Mikkelsen (from Borgen & Forbrydelsen I/ The Killing) and Sidse Babett Knudsen
(from Borgen)

Description of Episode One:
“Young brothers Laust and Peter become enamoured with the new estate manager’s daughter”
See link below for more information and BBC i-player.

BBC Four-Details of the episodes and BBC i-player.
More recent information:

Details of a screening of 1864.

end of preview

The Danish series-

Episode One.
Some notes and dialogue on first watching.

1864 opens with close-ups of an excellent and realistic oil painting of men on a battlefield.

“I’m writing this so it is remembered, who will read it I do not know….
“Denmark was such a county…
(a long list of names)
“Who fell victim to the mad euphoria of…”

Present Day- Denmark.
A teacher to the children:
“The Prussian army was over there,”
“This was the defence position,”
“It was here, young men fought an impossible battle position..”

Half of the teacher’s class have run away.  A young teenage girl looks up to the sky as a Kestrel chirps and flutters its wings above.  Her face is pale, bleached white.  Her eyes are rimmed in wet black make up from small tears.  The girl gazes up at the sky and weeps.

South Funen 1851

(she is the voice-over and writer of the diary that is being related throughout)

“I was twelve years old in eighteen fifty one and we had defeated the Prussians,”
” I still remember how handsome Didrich looked up on his horse.,”
” Like a prince..”

So Didrich is Kaspar from Borgen.
& Didrich’s father, I believe, is JP from the Danish series Resjeholdt.

Not so sure about the rather histrionic father of Didrich and the teacher in the school.

Thomas Buch from The Killing/ Forbrydlesen III appears and not long after, Birgitte from Borgen arrives on stage.

Inge: (when she meets Peter and Laust)
“That day the sun lit up  this world of ours”
“I just saw two filthy boys,”
“They saw a pillar of salt, risen from the water”
“They gave Hermia three choices,”
“She can be a nun, marry Dimetirus, or die”
she continues:
“Which one should she choose?”

Inge:(as voice-over)
“If only we could send back the clouds,
“If only time stood still and we could live for all eternity”..

I am liking Bishop Monrad- who is Thomas Buch from The Killing as I said. he comes to visit Mrs. Heiberg (Birgitte from Borgen).

Mrs. Heiberg to Bishop Monrad:
“Can I have my hand back?”

Isn’t it unusual (in 1851) for a Political person to call upon a married lady then?
(however I remember that he is a Priest and a Bishop so that probably swings things for him plus he asked the husband of Mrs. Heiberg)

Mrs. Heiberg: (bangs on the piano)
“Now it’s God, King and Denmark!”
Then they get up and start dancing.

Anyway Mrs Heiberg sort of teaches Bishop Monrad how to give a speech and get his ideas together.

Mrs. Heiberg:
“Now it’s God, King and the people”
She sings:
“”When it’s off to war I run,”
“My girlfriend wants to come..”

(meanwhile in Prussia)
The white coated man’s heels click.
He says:
“Your Majesty”..
Another man speaks:
“we must get rid of these liberal and democratic forces, look at Denmark, the King is like a show horse…”
The Prussian King:
“Excuse me,what is your name?”
“Otto Van Bismark..”

Back to the present.
Which seems way too far away for the girl to have been twelve.  Who is relating the story.  But wait, I get it,it’s the present day girl who must have found Inge’s diary.  Just to clear it up for me-the elderly Baron answers the girl’s question:
“Did you fight in that war?
“Not unless I’m a hundred and seventy years old!..

Then the Baron hears music playing.  He looks out of the window.  It’s 1851 again.  Who knows.  Let’s just go with it.

Didrich to a crowd of children:
“Silent and alone, we were ready to rip out their hearts!”

Ingres to Didrich:
“It must have been terrible for you, are you all right?”
Didrich to Ingres:
“I’m a frog…”

So at the end of the episode there is a montage of things in the next episode I guess.  Is there another one.  Yes- I knew that.  It’s just that this one seemed so long.  Maybe it’s because I kept finding excuses to get up and go off for a while.

Dunno if I’m up for this you know.  I note the closing credits are composed of the names of the dead on a war memorial.  Endlessly.  Are they driving the point home about war?  Possibly.


Episode Two.

Some notes and dialogue on first watching.

“I grew up with Laust and Petere, back then it was always sun, before the shadows..”
“I remember..”
She continues:
“Politicians, the cultural elite and the people felt chosen by God.”
 “They basked in an arrogance that shone as bright as the sun,”
 “but dark clouds were gathering..”
“No one ever knew then..”

Peter and Laust are working. (on the farm)
Peter is singing.  His father (Lars Mikkelsen) is working in the fields.  Then.  His father looks up to the sun.
(melodramatic music plays)

Present day.
The teenage girl comes to see the Baron.
“It’s the zombie sitter !”

The girl opens a trunk and pulls out a large white book, a diary…”

Back to..

Bishop Monrad and Mrs. Heiberg.
“Mrs. Heiberg, I have to tell you something..”
Mrs Heiberg:
“You say you lack passion, but madness is like passion..”

So here comes that scene.  (from the stills for the preview of 1864)
“Schleswig-Holstein belongs to Denmark!”
“Schleswig -Holstein belongs to Denmark”!”

Ingres: (as voice-over)
“In 1864 it still felt like the sun was in charge of the word”

Peter to Ignazzio: (a Romany man)
“Are you not having anything to eat?”
“Not today”..

“Our earth, our people..”
Mrs Heiberg:
“Our ancestors..”
“Our people!”

Mrs Heiberg to Bishop Monrad:
“You dangerous, dangerous man!..

So Otto Von Bismark and Moltke his mate, decide their war tactics on the basis of a game of toy soldiers.
Bismark: (to his son)
“But what about if all these armies joined together?”

Ah- the scene in the sea.  With the three.  The two men and Ingres.

Inge and Laust: (shout together)
“Everyone is happy!”
“Everything is great!”

Inge: (as voice-over)
“I was happy, but scared..”

I like the present day story the best.
We keep seeing Jan/Theiss (from The Killing/ Forbrydelsen/ Borgen) staring sadly into a forest.

Well, that’s over.  More war memorial.  I am getting the idea a lot of people died.  Well yep.  We get that.  Even the numerals 1864 are written in slashed red blood.


Review of 1864.

So  I think I am going to pass on 1864.  The drama, I found myself thinking whilst watching (although I left out “the drama” bit) is just So. Very.  Worthy.  Isn’t it.

Then there is the whole thing of knowing the ending already.  Well at least concerning the main characters in the historical part.

I also found myself thinking: you  know people may have had different ideas about things then.  But people were not that different.  C’mon now. This is 1851.

 I also, unaccountably other than it was set in exactly the same time-found myself missing the series Maison Close.  With its fabulous sets.  Perhaps it was a carriage pulling up, with horses, that reminded me.

Ah.  Maison Close.  A Whole lot more historically accurate both in the details and the people.  As well as their behaviour.  For nineteenth century folk.

Whereas the characters in 1864 were cardboard cut-outs, caricatures.  Including regrettably transplanted backward in time-21st Century people.
(These are the terribly right-on heroes and heroine of the story)  They are not nineteenth century people.  In my opinion.

I do not mean the actual 21st century people in the story.  Who are the only really believable characters in the whole thing.  The shambles.

The thought of an Extras episode enters my head.  Is that too cruel.  However nearly some or nearly all of the characters in the historical (and I use that word lightly) side of 1864 are like over-dressed extras.  Found slumped on a chair chatting to Ricky Gervais.  Having a fag/ cigarette perhaps.  I mean really.  C’mon.

1864, while beautiful as a moving picture to look at with it’s winsome utterings regarding happiness and the sun and those forever peksy gathering clouds: is absolute and utter tosh.

Some of the characters could be found in old technicolour Hollywood movies.  Characters from Central Castings-Central Station.

Not to mention deeply depressing and dire.  Is the feeling I get from 1864.  Yep.  War is hell.  We know.  People die.  We get it.  They are all sons, brothers, boyfriends etc with mothers, fathers, lovers.  We know.

The problem is that 1864 is too obviously agenda laden.  It has a point to make about war.  About so-called Nationalism.  which is part of the problem. 1864 is judging backwards in time from the future. Which in my book is just plain daft.

This raises questions about dramas concerning historical events. Viewers tend to think such depictions to be true.  To be historically accurate.  Therein lies the rub.  For me anyway.

Since 1864, with its immersively depressing concentration on the character’s lives has already forecast their doom for us.  We are just going to wallow in the associated grief.  Of those left behind.

Presumably also, prejudging from the animation of the war oil painting- there will be near pornographic scenes of gore beyond description.  Well-cannons, muskets and bayonets.  We could figure all this out already.

We don’t need the message metaphorically enforced by over-embellishment of the caricatured characters of madmen, evinced as patriotic zealots.

Mordan is just ridiculous-as is his muse.  Clearly, the film-maker blames his bogeyman of Mordan, whom he labels as near insane, for the Schleswig-Holstein war.  Plus Nationalism of course.  As the repeated and tiresomely message laden close-ups of the flying Danish flag reminded us.

I’m also not sure about the prurience of using a war memorial for the credits sequence.  This would seem to fit for a documentary.  Which is kind of what 1864 is pretending to be.

Is the film-maker co-opting the tragedy of war to make a political point?  Possibly.  Is he changing that course of history in his telling of the story?  Upon my (recent) reading up on the subject-it would seem so.

Therefore it would seem fair to describe the drama as an interpretation of historical events.  As in the beginning of the Italian series-1992.

Instead of believing, as I understand (the film-maker is quoted as saying) that:
“It is a drama, no one can tell me how many soldiers I kill, one, two or three..”

Well yes and No.  If no more than a certain number is known to have died in that war for example.  You can’t kill any more.  Can you.  ‘Cause that would be wrong.  Wouldn’t it.

The characters in 1864 were corny and caricatured.  The series co-opted a war from a hundred and seventy years ago in order to speak about present day wars.  As in the story of the present day girl and the severely corny Baron.  eg.  Afghanistan.

 Presumably the older war was an easier target since nobody is around from that war.  To tell us how they feel about  the Schleswig-Holstein war depiction in 1864.   (or the use of their war memorial in the credit sequence)  Or indeed to point out what really happened.

I probably would have watched the rest of 1864 if it was only about the present day story.  Which was enlarged upon.  However this is not the case and I am not prepared to sit through the rest of the historical (supposedly) story just to follow that thin, present day thread.

I think my feet really tell the story.  In that they kept wanting to get up and walk away.  Fairly frequently.  Out of a feeling of boredom and drag.  Not to mention some extremely icky scenes.

You might not want to be wanting to eat your dinner around the first episode.  Particularly anything kind of mushy.

Like my baked potato with butter in it.  I found  myself half-expecting to see little tadpole shapes, swimming in a certain jar.  Then I thought, no, that’s not possible.  That happens only with frog-spawn.  Yum.  Not.

Yes- words cannot describe what words perhaps should not describe.



Extras refers to the British series made by Ricky Gervais.


A good all round discussion of 1864 and the issue of historical accuracy in drama as discussed by several Danish historians who are familiar with the period and the Schleswig-Holstein war:

Danish link on 1864 sourced 20th May 2015


Nb. You can translate the page with a right click on the mouse.


I have written about the French series Maison Close here-series One and Two-which is available on DVD.  If you would like to see a real historical drama-lovingly and assiduously researched-with no agenda whatsoever.  Maison Close is set in Paris in 1851.

Nb.  You don’t have to be a Sky customer in the UK to get Sky Arts 1 and Sky Arts 2:
Virgin Media Broadband/TV package-Extra Large/XL has the channels 281/282- Sky Arts 1/ Sky Arts 1 HD and  channel numbers 283/284- Sky Arts 2/ Sky Arts 2 HD.

Unusual dialogue:
“She looked to them like a pillar of salt, risen from the water.”!  Could it be biblical.


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