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The Legacy/Arvingerne, Season 1 (MHz Releasing/DVD/2014)



 
Imported from Denmark by MHz Releasing, this 10-hour first-year series about what happens to a disgruntled family when their world-famous artist/ matriarch dies, leaving a disputed legacy for her four grown children. Beautifully written, directed and acted, the ten episodes unspool slowly and effectively, giving all the lead characters rich characterizations to engage us with.

Writer and creator Maya Ilsøe reels us in by opening with the creatively self-serving 60+-years-old artist, Veronica Grønnegaard (Kirsten Olesen), finishing up some important sculptures and other modern works of art which are coveted by museums around Europe and North America.  But when she dies, after scribbling out a deathbed letter gifting her valuable farmhouse to a daughter she had given up for adoption twenty-five years before, Signe (Marie Bach Hansen), after transferring it to a self-created foundation for the preservation of her art, the proverbial money-shit hits the collective fans.

Her four children were fathered by three different men, only one of whom, Thomas (Jesper Christensen), is still alive, an ageing hippie who fathered Gro Grønnegaard (Trine Dyrholm).  Her younger brothers, Frederik (Carsten Bjornlund) and Emil (Mikkel Boe Folsgaard), each with peculiar problems of their own, gang up on young Signe to try and get the riches for themselves.

The dynamics of this internecine warfare change according to the individual needs of the characters, but the brilliance of the script is the way Ilsør keeps the pot boiling, allowing some of the finest on-screen acting you will ever see.  And that every single character, large or small, is full-bodied is amazing to watch.  And that can be placed on producer Christian Rank, creator Ilsøe, the many directors, including actor Bjornlund, casting director Anja Philip, and an extraordinary production team of editors, special effects, stunt work, art direction, etc.  Each as good as the other.

But special notice must be given to the quality of the acting.  Most shows will allow for big blowups between characters, giving their actors reason for having fun in them – and, yes, here they do that, too.  But it’s in the quiet moments, when the camera lingers on the faces, with the actors not “acting,” but just “being,” that gives the series its greatest power.

There’s a Season Two for us to anticipate, so enjoy this luminous Season One.  And lucky us to be able it to watch again and again as it’s every bit as good as the Danish “Borgan” and the British “Downton Abbey.”