Directed by: Nicolas Winding Refn
Distributed by: Netflix
Written by Jeff Sparks
Prior to the premiere of his series “Too Old To Die Young”, everyone wondered if Nicolas Winding Refn could translate his avant-garde style from film to long-form storytelling. Like with all of Refn’s works, it was met with either love or hate, all depending on each viewer’s experience with his signature style that includes drawn-out dialogue, over-saturated colors, and metaphorical imagery to go along with excessive violence and sexual content. As someone who was very impressed with “Too Old To Die Young,” I am happy to say that “Copenhagen Cowboy” is more of the same. Only consisting of six episodes, his second series is just as good if not better than his first. The series stars Angela Bundalovic as Miu, a woman who possesses the ability to make her thoughts come to fruition. Whether she uses them for good or evil is up to her. All her life she has been sold as a lucky token to help make people’s wishes come true. After being used and betrayed in the first episode by a woman who pays Miu to help her conceive a child, Miu takes matters into her own hands and exacts revenge. With nowhere to go, she has a chance meeting with a woman named Hulda who gives her a place to stay. When Hulda reveals that gangsters have taken her only daughter, Miu enters the criminal underworld to get the child back. Also starring in the series are Li li Zhang, Andreas Lykke Jørgensen, Jason Hendil Forssell, and Zlatko Buric.
Like with most of Refn’s work, the plot isn’t what makes this show great, it’s the craft behind it. Refn is at his best here, crafting truly visionary sequences the likes of which I’ve never seen before. The otherworldly filmmaking is meant to be watched in a dark room with no distractions so you can allow yourself to sink into the depths of this mystical Copenhagen that this team has created. Each scene has its own way of being unique as part of the larger visual style. Sometimes each one will simply have its own color that drenches the atmosphere, other times it will have its own visual metaphor that illustrates the context of its individual place in the plot. One example is in episode six when Miu and Hulda are entering an underground mob hangout to perform a deal to get Hulda’s child back. As the two walk to the entrance, they are surrounded by total darkness except for a purple light that emerges from the door. The shadows that engulf them represent the unknown that lies before them. Will the gangsters back out of the deal? Will they be killed? These are the things they wonder about as they approach their futures that hang in the balance beyond that door.
Like with its fantasy version of Copenhagen, the show peels back the layers of our main character one layer at a time through the progression of the series. With each episode, we see a new side of her or learn something new about the power she possesses but only a little bit at a time so when the show ends she still remains a mystery to us the same way she does to those around her. As for the setting, the fantasy elements are never at the forefront. The identities of each set of characters are never told to us, leaving much to the imagination besides what is implied. Like with everything Refn has made, this series can’t be categorized into any genre. It has elements of drama, fantasy, horror, thriller, and whatever you can think of. But at its core, “Copenhagen Cowboy” is a work of art in the form of a series that will likely be at the top of my list for the best shows of 2023.
“Copenhagen Cowboy” Trailer