With a bathroom cupboard full of Pez dispensers loaded with Valium, Dag (Atle Antonsen) is the least professional couples therapist in Norway – but he gets results. A pity those results are divorce (which is a victory for him). His mindset is that marriage is the cause of all problems, and firmly believes that if they aren’t happy then get a divorce and move on. So it’s with no surprise his convincing first time sessions are usually the last. Like I said, a high success rate.
This Norwegian comedy usually follows Dag and his ludicrous couples sessions that encapsulate any unhappy marriage (no sex, no emotions, always angry etc). These are the crux of the episodes and do become, to the viewers gratification, a look at couples who really should have never been together in the first place. “Get divorced. End the relationship. It’ll be a mercy killing” says Dag, so seriously it becomes evident that this comedy is fantastic for us Brits – as dry as a cream cracker.
Outside of the office, Dag is accompanied by his longtime friend Benedikt (Anders Baasmo Christiansen). We are first introduced to him when he arrives drunk, falling onto Dag’s floor, babbling about how he’s ruined his life. A flashback proceeds to show Benedikt and his wife in the hospital waiting for the birth of their first baby. Benedikt finally plucks up the courage to lean over to his wife and confess that he never really wanted children in the first place – perhaps the worst but most entertaining way to break up. These weird and unfortunate events happen in almost every episode and are a great side story to break up the other slower parts of the episodes. One instance that sticks in my mind is when he tries to pick up a Woman in a bar shortly after telling his wife he wants to split. Going up to the hotel room, the Woman exclaims that her little boy should be sleeping so there should be no issues – but by now you will realise that is not the case. It then cuts to the interior on the room with Benedikt having sex with the woman whilst her son, with Downs Syndrome, plays the trumpet in time with his thrusts. A somewhat guilty laugh that can, however, ostracise some people.
Dag has similarities in editing and sound design with the director Edgar Wright. This show feels similar to Spaced in terms of editing and non-linear cutaways. For example, the quick edit of Dag opening his door with the heavy sounding effects of the sliding locks is similar to Wright’s directorial style. The show also has these out of body type sequences whereby Dag deliberates various different scholars about human emotions and the endless suffering that is self-inflicted by our own minds – very similar to Spaced’s way of peering into a characters mind.
Dag has some issues mostly to do with the strength of the story. They are only short, self-containing episodes that don’t particularly entertain as much as other more serious dramas. However, that was never really the point of this comedy. The easily digestible 20 minute episodes provide good characterisation and good hearty (albeit guilty) laughs. It’s easy to get wrapped up in long depressing Scandinavian dramas so Dag provides a nice relief. If you are as cynical as Dag then I thoroughly recommend, but beware if you have a timid sense of humour. This is the type of show that holds no punches and runs far past the line of human decency.
Available from Arrow Films on 5th October.