The person who helped me through 2021: Sofie Gråbøl as Sarah Lund felt like a brilliant old friend | The slaughter
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TDuring the year 2021, I have accepted some important truths: I sometimes feel loneliness like an anvil on my chest; exercising really makes me feel better; I’m lost without a murder drama on the go. It’s been the year of the re-guard – Happy Valley, The Bridge, Unforgotten and The Killing. These shows are vastly different and shouldn’t be reduced to basic tropes, but they all share a strong but flawed female sleuth that you can invest in emotionally. And me.
In a year marked by uncertainty, loss, health problems and boredom, spending my evenings absorbing the lives of fictional policewomen has been medicinal. This murder is a balm might be something for a therapy session, but the determination and bruised souls of Sarah Lancashire’s Catherine Cawood, Nicola Walker’s Cassie Stuart, Sofia Helin’s Saga Norén and Sofie Gråbøl’s Sarah Lund held back my attention like nothing else – even the second or third time.
I watched The Killing for the third time as summer was winding down and felt particularly captivated by Lund: the forensic gaze, the bluntness, taking out parts when she’s had enough of someone, the pretty face which carries remorse for which she can seldom find words. Lund is not real, but my experience of her is; watching a woman use her shiny brain while mine seemed to me that the mushroom soup was perfect. I envied his drive, even though his inability to maintain relationships broke my heart. She moved me, when not much else did.
I explain all this to Gråbøl via Zoom. When she appears, I have the impression of seeing an old friend again. “What you are saying is very touching,” she said. “I felt so comfortable in this character, which is a paradox because he was not a pleasant person to be around. She has a strong connection to what looks good, but there was something very lonely about her. During the filming of The Killing, Gråbøl was “in another world”. When they stopped, “It was like when you were a kid and you made a world by playing, then your parent opens the door and says, ‘It’s dinner time!’ A bubble has burst.
We discuss the power of art in giving us other worlds to inhabit – something many of us have needed this year. “At the root of the human experience is a need to be mirrored, to have different languages for what we experience,” she says. I tell Gråbøl that my friend and I, watching The Killing simultaneously continued to send a screenshot of Lund with slightly wild hair as an investigation became tedious. His vague neglect spoke to us in our less vague detachment from the personal grooming as the boredom of the pandemic rumbled. Gråbøl laughs into his cup of tea: “I don’t know if I should take this as a compliment or an insult!
It has been “a huge year and a half” for Gråbøl. She bought a house for the first time. “I’ve always been afraid to tie myself financially like this because my professional life is so uncertain,” she says. “An anxiety of uncertainty is ingrained in me and has been ingrained since I was a child, before I had the language for it. But I wanted a little garden, so I went there. In addition to working on the film Rose with The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo director Niels Arden Oplev, in which she plays a woman with schizophrenia, Gråbøl filmed The Shift, a new series directed by Lone Scherfig (An Education), in the role of the midwife Ella, in a maternity unit of a Danish hospital. In July, Gråbøl had a two week break. During this time, her mother, who was undergoing cancer treatment, fell very ill.
“I’ve always been afraid that one of my relatives would fall ill because, in my job, you can’t just say: ‘I’m leaving now’,” she explains. These two weeks were her mother’s last. “It allowed me to be there every day, and, in the end, to sleep with her in the hospice. I washed her and got her ready for burial, following her all the way, really. It was beautiful. I feel privileged that my mother’s death was like a masterclass on how to die. I am struck by his elegance in describing such a significant loss.
While researching her role in The Shift, Gråbøl helped deliver a baby in a real maternity hospital. “I gave birth to two children, but: Wow,She smiles, her eyes wide. “Attending a birth is something else. I had never seen a birth or death, but experienced both in the same month. Birth and death are bubbles in their own right; the outside world becomes almost fictional. There is nothing else.”
Naturally, Gråbøl feels that the “tectonic plates” of his being have changed. “We are cleaning my mother’s apartment and my son is going to move in. So many huge changes have happened and the pandemic as a backdrop has felt very appropriate, ”she says. “The landscape has changed, but now I’m going to start learning how to move around there. I have a feeling that the collective shock we have experienced with the pandemic means that we all have to do it, to some extent. “
As the light fades in our respective homes and we say goodbye to each other, I say to myself, “You’re right.
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