Forbrydelsen's Sofie Gråbøl

Yesterday I watched this great interview with Forbrydelsen’s (The Killing) Sofie Gråbøl: 

While the interview focused mostly on how she assumes different roles (and I’ve never been as interested in acting as in narrative), two feminist things stuck out in particular:

1)  Women sometimes have a hard time being present

Two times Gråbøl mentions that too often in party settings, women busy themselves as hostesses: preparing aperitifs, checking on guests, making sure glasses are filled. Men, however, tend to be more still. She believes the difference lies in the fact that women put others above themselves, while men are more able to let people come to them. It’s the divide between moving and being, and perhaps I can learn from this. 

I’m not suggesting a gender-role overhaul, but rather a bit of deeper awareness for my own life, at least. When I’m attending to guests and bouncing from conversation to conversation, I only punctuate the surface of the relationships with people at the party, whereas people who sit and talk can dig deeper. In my continual desire for excitement, maybe it’s actually better to really talk to someone at a party instead of hop-hop-hopping to feel like I’ve fulfilled my hostess duties and gained the instant high of talking to a lot of people.

2) Sarah Lund needed to be conceptualized as a man before she could be acted as a woman

Gråbøl tends to play characters who give everything, emotionally.  They cry, they scream, they run, they laugh to the full extent of their being. With Sarah Lund, it’s the opposite. She gives nothing, and instead viewers come crawling to her, wanting to peer inside her and unearth those emotions.

When it came to Sarah Lund, Gråbøl apparently had a hard time digesting the character at the beginning, even though the role was created mostly for her. She seemed impenetrable – the bridge from character in the written screenplay to the physically acted personnage was too vast. It wasn’t until she started observing some of the physical movements of some of the men on set that she could envision Sarah Lund realistically. The jerky arm movements, the angled walking, the clenched hands – these were all things Gråbøl needed to absorb before Sarah Lund could become a complete character. However, the character, in Gråbøl’s mind, is definitely not a man. The acting process, though, required her to move through a masculine mode in order to arrive at the complexity of playing a female detective whose dedication to her job, familial fuck-ups, and accepted loneliness resemble masculine characters.

This gender-bending deep character is what’s important to me in Forbrydelsen, because Sarah Lund is so problematic, both as a woman and as a detective. She’s incredibly unconventional in both regards, which makes her fascinating to watch. Søren Sveistrup writes the plot points especially to draw attention to the battle between personal and professional life. For example, how many times do we see Lund answer her cell phone when she’s trying to connect with her son, and thus ruins the moment?

Such is the modern woman’s plight in a man’s world (and the police force, with its hyper-masculinity, is one of the worst of these places), and I’m thankful that female characters like Lund are accurately portraying that never-ending paradox: when women try to have it all, we give something up. I think we ultimately have faith in Lund, however, because she’s unconventional; this is what causes her to take the risks needed to catch the criminals, even at the expense of her family or romantic life.

I hope other women can be similarly inspired by Lund to test out the waters of unconventionality.

Note: much of the inspiration for these thoughts comes from Gunhild Agger’s article “Emotion, Gender and Genre: Investigating The Killing.” 

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