Home Entertainment ‘Borgen’s’ Birgitte Hjort Sørensen and Sara Isabella Jønsson, Star and Creator of...

‘Borgen’s’ Birgitte Hjort Sørensen and Sara Isabella Jønsson, Star and Creator of Canneseries ‘Dark Horse,’ Talk Drugs, Toxic Mother-Daughter Relations


“I am a mother of young kids but, boy, I hope I’m a very different kind of mother than Eva,” says Danish star Birgitte Hjort Sørensen (“Borgen,” “Pitch Perfect 2”) about her character in the Danish psychological drama “Dark Horse,” showcased this week in Canneseries’ official competition.

The story about a mother-daughter toxic relationship, set against the backdrop of addiction, turns on 17-year-old Anna and her mother Eva who move back to Eva’s small provincial Danish town from Shanghai. Their abrupt arrival at Eva’s brother, who runs a veterinarian surgery, is awkward for everyone, as Eva has been silent for years, busy dragging her daughter around the world, in her restless pursuit of new adventures and relationships. 

Soon, the unhealthy co-dependent and toxic relationship between Anna and the pill-popper Eva emerges. In an urge to fit in with her school friends and break free from her dominating mother, Anna takes risks. She steals drugs – Ketamine – from her uncle’s surgery and gets caught in a dangerous downward spiral.

Next to Hjort Sørensen, who plays Eva, is rising talent Josephine Højbjerg (“Tinka and the Mirror of the Soul”) in her breakthrough role as Anna. The series was produced by Monolit Film for TV2 Denmark which launched it in January. REinvent handles global sales. 

“From the get go, the symbiotic and co-dependent mother-daughter relationship has been the beating heart of the story and even more so when it evolved into a highly dysfunctional one,” said fast-rising writing talent Sara Isabella Jønsson who co-created and co-wrote the Netflix show “Copenhagen Cowboy” with Nicolas Winding Refn and earned two Danish national Robert Awards – best screenplay–  for the films “Unruly” and “Persona Non Grata.”

Asked if she was inspired by the relationship with her own mother Jønsson said: “Definitely not. My mum was not a psycho! But I have known and seen toxic dynamics in other people’s relationships and co-dependency is such an interesting phenomenon. It can be so invisible within families. “

“Yes. there is a fine line in a parent-child relationship, because of the love you share,” adds Hjort Sørensen. The co-dependency is a very interesting dynamic, which can become unhealthy. Some people experience it in a small scale, but here it goes way over the top.”

Hjort Sørensen, who boarded the project because of its bold theme, complex characters, well-written script, and the opportunity to do “something different from anything I’ve done before,” says she worked closely with Jønsson and concept director Karoline Lyngbye (“Superposition”) from pre-production in order to understand her character. “We discussed Eva and said she is probably undiagnosed as bipolar and finds a way to self-medicate with pills”.

“As you discover in the series, Eva herself has had a difficult childhood; she was the odd-one-out in her family. So to guard herself, she has created that kind of wild personality, but deep down she is really lonely. When Anna tries to break free from her, she feels she is losing her one life companion,” the actor comments.”

For the small provincial town setting and mood, Jønsson said she was inspired by personal memories. “When I was in my twenties, I visited family members at the Danish embassy in New Delhi, and there was something about the high society life there, a sense of rootlessness that inspired me,” she said.

But the very first idea to set the story in a small town where the youths feel restless, came six-seven years ago at a difficult time in her life, when she was grieving the sudden loss of her younger brother from a traffic accident. 

While putting away his personal belongings, she found a notebook with his thoughts about that small town environment where both grew up.

“We grew up in the suburbs, not the countryside, but there were similarities with the series. The empty streets, being a restless teenager. This was very familiar,” said the writer, who through the series found a way to pay tribute to her beloved brother.

For the story thread of Anna’s sudden dive into drugs, Jønsson said she was inspired by “Breaking Bad.” “I wanted to create a ‘Breaking Bad’ journey in a 17-year-old!” she muses.

Having researched Ketamine use in teens, notably via youth focus groups, she says: “It’s really quite common. In Denmark the drinking culture is heavy, and the next step is to experiment with drugs from an early age. A lot of kids we spoke to had tried or admitted being curious about it. Plus it’s easy today to find information about drugs online. With my co-writer, we did find out on the web about how to turn liquid Ketamine into powder!”

Hjort Sørensen picks up: “At school when I was young, I was terrified of drugs, so that part of the story was foreign to me. But I know today that Ketamine and drug use among teens is becoming a real issue,” she said.

Ultimately, Jønsson hopes the series “will trigger conversations between kids and adults, and that teenagers will want to watch it with their parents.”

Next up for the hot writer Jønssson who shares her life with internationally acclaimed writer-director Nikola Arcel (“The Promised Land”, “A Royal Affair”), is “Wannabe,” co-written with “Dark Horse”’s Skjoldemose and newcomer Patricia Bbaale Bandak who will direct.