🇩🇰 WHEN THE DUST SETTLES 🇩🇰
When the Dust Settles (2020) is a Danish drama miniseries. Available on Walter Presents All4 U.K.; Roku and Topic US. 10 x 58 mins. Guidance re: content. Danish and Swedish with subtitles.
“The interweaved [sic] stories of 8 very different people during the days before and after a terrorist attack shocks Copenhagen, all fundamentally changed by the tragic incident.”
Karen-Lise Mynster as Elisabeth Hoffmann
Jacob Lohmann as Morten Dalsgård
Malin Crépin as Lisa
Henning Jensen as Holger Frennerslev
Katinka Lærke Petersen as Ginger
Arian Kashef as Jamal
Viola Martinsen as Marie
Peter Christoffersen as Nikolaj
Filippa Suenson as Louise Petersen
Elias Budde Christiansen as Albert Dalsgård
Hadi Ka-Koush as Farshad
Magnus Krepper as Stefan
Julie Agnete Vang as Camilla Dalsgård
Manmeet Singh as Chadi
Creators: Dorte Warnøe Høgh & Ida Maria Rydén
Directors: Milad Alami, Iram Haq & Jeanette Nordahl
Writers: Creators with consultants Trine Appel, Ahmad Mahmoud, Jens Dahl with storyline Andreas Garfield, Stefan Jaworski, Line Mørkeby, Iben Albinus Sabroe, Astrid Øye, Jens Korse, Anna Neye Poulson and writer Marie Østerbye
Composer: Martin Dirkov
Cinematographer: Aske Foss, Sebastian Winterø, Kasper Wind Nielsen & Adam Wallensten
Makeup Dept. Head: Soile Ludjoi
Special Effects: Lars Kolding Andersen, Nanna Sofie Brovang, Carl Oscar Høimark, Hummer Højmark, William Vever, Mark Hedegaard (Weapons Master)
⚠️ This review contains mild spoilers ⚠️
When the Dust Settles is centred around a terrorist attack but rather than focussing on the terrorists themselves, or the security services, it focuses upon a number of individuals who are caught up in the attack in one way or another. Any series about terrorism needs to be handled with sensitivity, how far does this Danish miniseries achieve that?
The miniseries opens up with people sitting in a restaurant on an ordinary evening in Copenhagen with people chatting away. The camera moves in turn from one table to another and we see the chef and waiting staff. It is at this point that masked men enter and start shooting with automatic rifles. Initially, we see the aftermath through one man’s eyes.
From this point, we go back in time to several days before the tragic and traumatic events. The audience is introduced to many different characters of all types from all walks of life and ethnicities. We witness their daily lives which range from politics to fixing people’s dodgy toilets, from being homeless to preparing for a music tour, from taking over a restaurant to working as a barber, wanting to die in a nursing home to struggling as a single parent and child. We are privy to their relationships and the stresses and strains they are each dealing with: family dynamics, physical violence, insecurities, political decisions, looming retirement, relationships, loneliness, love affairs, errant children and so on.
For the first 4 episodes of When the Dust Settles, the time is spent moving from one to another of these characters. This is very much a character-driven drama and hereby lies its real strength. We get to know these characters (the good, the bad and the ugly) very well. We understand them even if we do not always like them. We see the prejudice that lies within “friendships”. Throughout this first part of the series, there are occasional disjointed clips of the attack itself.
As the drama unfolds interconnections are made between characters up until the attack itself which is shown in lengthy detail. Because we know these people so well by then the impact is far more affecting than it otherwise might be. We identify with at least some of them, we worry about them – nay are terrified for them – and we wonder what will happen to them now.
At no point did I feel that any of the violence shown in this show was gratuitous and in the actual attack much is implied rather than directly shown and injuries whilst visible are not as highly graphic as they could be.
Following the attack, we are now witness to the varying effects upon those caught up in it. What I really liked here was that it did not merely focus upon those who were in the centre of the maelstrom but also those who only came into the immediate aftermath or were on the periphery. It is interesting and very affecting to watch how these individuals cope with what has happened, their different reactions through anger, disbelief, existential breakdown, fear… with flashbacks. There are many “If only…” moments in the build-up and aftermath of the attack. Heaps of trauma. Heaps of guilt, anger and grief.
This is a series with a LOT of strengths. For me, an issue, and it is a minor one, is that sometimes the need to interconnect people is perhaps pushed just a little too far with the result that a connection or two seem forced (and a bit “really?”) rather than natural as most are. There was also an incident towards the end (involving a firearm) that I found unnecessary and a real negative for one storyline (just a bit of over-egging the pudding). I happily suspended disbelief for some aspects where it was necessary.
However, leaving those small negatives aside, this is a superbly written and acted piece of TV. The way it is filmed lends itself to us becoming intimate observers of this terrible event and its effects upon people we truly “know”. The cinematography is excellent and uses shaky-cam just enough to bring that necessary sense of realism and tension. The music (score and THE song) enhances the tension but also the beauty of some scenes. Special effects are excellent as is the makeup, especially for the results of being beaten up on someone’s face.
There are characters who I loved and loathed (looking at you Elisabeth) in this. I was anxious for some especially and despised one in particular. We get to see the very worst of some people. It is also an interesting exploration of the stages of grief and severe trauma. It is clear that “natural” reactions are not always the healthiest and that people need to seek help no matter who they are. In this respect, I loved the relationship that built up between Nikolaj and Marie and that they ultimately helped each other.
One of the great things about this show, aside from showing us how these people carry on with their lives are the connections they made with each other as people. I loved that out of this tragedy and carnage people found solace in each other, new relationships were established and old ones recovered. That some became better people because of what they went through and refocused their lives was uplifting. The scene with the candles and pizza in the restaurant was fantastic!
Another strength is that it raises issues and asks some VERY uncomfortable questions about our own prejudices and assumptions. An example aside from poor Jamal (small spoiler) is that a man from an ethnic minority with loads of tattoos who might be labelled as “terrorist suspect” or “gang-related” is shown going into the restaurant. How many I wonder immediately thought he was going to be anything but another, totally innocent, victim?
Last but not least, there are many fantastic performances in When the Dust Settles and these combined with the great dialogue and story bring the characters to life with all their strengths and weaknesses. Viola Martinsen as Marie is outstanding and clearly a young talent to watch out for in the future. This is one heck of a cast and casting itself seems perfect. Bravo!
Before the Dust Settles is a slow-burn series, especially for the first 4 episodes which are used to build and connect the characters but goodness me, the overall show is excellent. The power of well-developed characters and dramatic irony (we know things characters do not, especially when and where the attack will happen) really work on your emotions. This is a sympathetically and intelligently written series which handles the story sensitively.
6 nominations including:
Robert (2021) Best TV Series; Best Actress ~ Karen-Lise Mynster
Svendborg Film Festival (2020) Best Danish Actor in a Drama Series – Arian Kashef
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