The House That Jack Built (2018)

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Directed by Lars Von Trier
Country: Denmark / other

In The House That Jack Built, Lars Von Trier’s subversive artistic qualities remain undiminished, even when he whimsically blurs the picture with a final chapter whose ludicrous irony and misrepresentation prevented the film to ascend to higher levels.

Set in Washington in the 70s and 80s, the story spans 12 years and depicts five random incidents that marked the long serial killing life of Jack (Matt Dillon), a wealthy engineer and a psychopath with severe OCD, who got famous as Mr. Sophistication. The nickname was earned at the expense of inventive atrocities inflicted to his victims, whom he photographed stylishly to fill the media’s first pages. In truth, this man is an art lover who turns his crimes into repulsive art forms. He possesses a salient narcissism that becomes uncontrollable whenever he feels humiliated. David Bowie’s “Fame” often accompanies the post-crime scenes in a way to intensify his sense of swaggering accomplishment.

The morbid occurrences are sequenced with occasional flashbacks showing Jack’s propensity for evil as a child, as well as voice-over conversations with Verge (Bruno Ganz), an imaginary character who appears by the end to show him to the gates of the hell where he belongs.

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Although fun-filled, the incidents are uneven and decrease in force with time. The first of them, featuring the irresistible Uma Thurman, is the one that stays longer in the memory.

Dark humor and stinging sarcasm are added in a tale that can be hilarious one minute and gruesome the minute after. You'll need a strong stomach to digest the shocking secrets Jack has to unveil, a disturbing character whose obsession and impulsiveness will destroy him at some point.

While Matt Dillon is insanely convincing in his performance, Von Trier obtains an extravagant blend of horror and humor from the monstrosity of his character.

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The Guilty (2018)

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Directed by Gustav Moller
Country: Denmark

Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window and Sidney Lumet’s 12 Angry Men are two triumphant films shot in one single room. Probably drawing some inspiration from the cited classics, Swedish-born director Gustav Moller keeps things tense and intense in his debut feature The Guilty, an engrossing Danish suspenser that never leaves the building where the story takes place.

Police officer Asger Holm (Jakob Cedergren, better known for Submarino and Terribly Happy) is reluctantly on duty in an emergency call center of the Copenhagen’s police department after being demoted from his usual obligations: street patrol. The reason for that is kept secret at first, but has to do with an incident under investigation. Not very popular among his colleagues, he feels extremely bored and behaves impatiently with the ceaseless phone calls he gets, most of them unimportant and with no consequence. A man that was mugged by a woman in his own car; another man who took speed and is likely hallucinating; a woman who fell from her bike and wants an ambulance for a minimal wound in her knee; and a woman journalist who wants to give him a chance to defend himself regarding the court case brought against him, are just some examples of how frustrating the job can be.

Nonetheless, when he gets a desperate call from a young mother calling for help, Asger suddenly becomes active and alert. The woman, Ibsen (voice by Jessica Dinnage), was apparently kidnapped by her violent ex-husband Michael, a former convict, leaving two minor children alone at home: Mathilde, six, and Oliver, who is still a baby.

From a distance, and slightly stepping the line that separates duty from emotion, Asger attempts to save the woman and hold her children in safety. While doing it, he does a self-conscious examination and even opens up about a certain conduct he is not proud of. Hence, this complex case, where nothing ends up being what it seems, is addressed by the officer in question as an opportunity for redemption.

With so little, Moller extracted the most of a story he co-wrote with Emil Nygaard Albertsen, also on account of Cedergren’s flawless performance and some clever warps in the script. Sharp close-ups meticulously capture the facial details, behavioral reactions, and moments of irritation due to bureaucratic procedures or vain superior orders. All the rest is left to our imagination.

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The Commune (2017)

Directed by Thomas Vinterberg
Country: Denmark / other

Danish filmmaker Thomas Vinterberg, co-founder of the Dogme 95 movement along with Lars Von Trier, is known for some poignant dramas with manifest emotional insight as are the cases of “The Celebration”, his first big hit, “The Hunt”, a worldly acclaimed drama with a strong theme, and “Far From the Madding Crowd”, a well-made British-American adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s novel of the same name. However, his filmography is not always consistent and titles such as “Dear Wendy”, “It’s All About Love”, and “Submarino” are completely dispensable.

Vinterberg co-wrote his new drama, “The Commune”, with a highly respected writer/helmer, Tobias Lindholm (“R”, “Highjacking”, “A War”), but the film is another rough stumble in the wobbly quality of his creations.
Set in the 70s, the film focuses on a successful liberal couple, Erik (Ulrich Thomsen) and Anna Muller (Trine Dyrholm), architecture professor and TV newscaster, respectively, who move with their 14-year old daughter, Freja (Martha Wallstrøm Hansen), into a large but secluded house in Hellerup, North of Copenhagen. The house is too big for them and is Anna’s wish to live in a commune with both old friends and a stranger, a broke foreigner called Allon (Fares Fares).

The other uninteresting dwellers are Ole (Lars Ranthe), Mona (Julie Agnete Vang), and a couple of associate professors whose little son faces a serious heart condition. As they cry and laugh together, everyone knows their place and how to live with respect.

After a chameleonic start that deludes us for brief moments with a perplexing piano melody erroneously announcing a thriller, and then suggesting a possible middle-aged romantic tale before settling in a fellowship adventure, the sharp camera lens fixates on the three main protagonists.

While the temperamental Erik starts an affair with a third-grade college student, Anna enters in a depressive and vicious spiral that will affect her life and work. Freja, who accidentally finds her dad’s secret, also gives the first steps in love with an older boy.

Although one may find genuine moments in the couple’s crisis, there are a bunch of scenes that feel contrived and even touch the ridicule. Perhaps the best example to illustrate this is when Allon does his interview with the commune members. Moreover, the dramatic side, many times enhanced by steep close-ups, is manipulated and conducted with an overwhelming negligence. 

Regardless the wonderful performances by Thomsen and Dyrholm, the narrative engine machinated by Vinterberg needed some more oil to slide out of its torpor. I’ve never found that miraculous spark that captivates, intrigues, and impels us to care about the characters, and that led “The Commune” to become stoic in all its avidity to quickly and easily stir emotions.

Parents (2016)

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Directed by Christian Tafdrup
Country: Denmark

Part nostalgic family drama, part preposterous fantasy, “Parents” stumbles in its vague ambition of becoming a hit sensation.

Danish actor turned director, Christian Tafdrup, designed a story that failed to deliver any reward after 86 minutes exploring the impalpable.

The debutant filmmaker builds an interesting premise as he depicts an aging couple, Kjeld (Søren Malling) and Vibeke (Bodil Jørgensen), facing new challenges in their comfortable but somewhat boring life. They’re having a hard time coping with the permanent absence of their young adult son, Esben (Anton Honik) who recently has moved into his own apartment with his girlfriend Sandra (Emilia Imperatore Bjørnvad).

Kjeld loves his wife and does everything for her. However, he’s visibly disappointed with the course his life has taken. One can sense he expects much more from this relationship with the impassionate Vibeke, a despondent mother who shows a steep dependence on her son.

Feeling a bit lost and aimless, husband and wife will gain a new breath when they relocate to a smaller house, the same they had lived thirty years ago while still studying. When Sandra breaks up with Esben, his mother visibly rejoices with the possibility of getting him back. These characters seem not to have friends and we don't see them interact with anyone else rather than the family. 

Weirder tones dominate the second half of the film, after Kjeld and Vibeke inexplicably wake up one morning thirty years younger, but still living in the present time. This was exactly the opportunity Kjeld was hoping for to bring his wife closer to him again, at least physically. However, and for our surprise, the young Vibeke (Miri Ann Beuschel) starts an incestuous relationship with the spoiled Esben, while the forlorn Kjeld (Elliott Crosset Hove) continues obsessively sculpting and arranging the house in order to make it look exactly how it was before.

These surreal occurrences get you baffled and alert, and yet the film never pays you back. In truth, the unsolved puzzle suggests many things, metaphorically speaking, but the psychological drama advances without objectivity, hobbling in its cold energy and hampering me from drawing any satisfaction from its observation.

Tafdrup directed with both confidence and competence and the cinematography by Maria von Hausswolff was valuable. On the other hand, the acting didn’t always feel solid.

Some other films succeeded by persistently dwelling in this sort of unintelligible limbo, however, “Parents” didn’t have that special tone capable of making me search unconditionally until the last minute.

Land of Mine (2015)

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Directed by Pieter Zandvliet
Country: Denmark / Germany

Martin Pieter Zandvliet’s “Land of Mine”, a fictional drama centered on the landmine clearance of the Danish West coast in the aftermath of the WWII, is simultaneously cruel and humane.

To accomplish this hazardous mission, a high-ranked official, Sgt. Carl Rasmussen (Roland Møller), is assign to command a group of young German soldiers, turned prisoners of war, who before being sent to the desolated beaches along the coast, receive their first training sessions on how to disarm landmines, explosive devices that most of them have never seen before. The insensible Lt. Ebbe Jensen (Mikkel Boe Følsgaard), who really doesn’t care if the soldiers die or live, gives the first instructions.
After being minimally trained, they join the implacable Sgt. Rasmussen, who despite the violent first scenes, in which he humiliates a German soldier, shows not to be so heartless as he seemed. 
He gets surprised when he realizes that the platoon under his orders is just made of a few homesick, hungry boys who still call for their mom when something goes wrong. They’re really young and innocuous.

After a flash adaptation to the job and a few lamentable incidents, the boys, acting fast and accurate, gain the desired experience and also the fondness of their leader, who starts to treat them in a more humane way, even protecting them from external abusers.
Expecting to go home after the job done, as they were promised, the team removes 1200 landmines but the reality that awaits them is very different.

The film follows similar lines as Paul Katis’ “Kajaki” without reaching its highly absorbing levels.
Mr. Zandvliet often struggles to give the film an original perspective, in the same manner that he struggles to build his characters with a fully shaped dimension. One issue resides in the constant radical changes in posture observed on Sgt. Rasmussen, which feels contrived. 
Using a moderated pace to get his ideas flowing, Mr. Zandvliet, who also wrote the screenplay, recurrently pushes this dramatic game of nerves to the limit.

A War (2015)

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Directed by Tobias Lindholm
Country: Denmark

Tobias Lindholm is a commendable Danish writer-director who proved his tremendous quality in intelligent, realistic dramas such as “R” and “A Highjacking”. 
In his latest, entitled “A War”, he earnestly portrays a thorny occurrence that deeply affects the life of a soldier in two different fronts: the military and the civilian. Commander Claus Pedersen (compellingly played by Lindholm’s regular, Pilou Asbæk) leaves his wife and three little children in Denmark and sets foot in the Afghan Helmand province, where he orients a small squad whose purpose is to guarantee the safety of the population, often threatened by the vile Taliban. Their mission in the Middle East also includes locating potential suspects and exterminating them, in the case they’re confirmed as enemies. 

The hardships of war are demonstrated in several ways by Mr. Lindholm, who starts his psychological assault to our minds when a young soldier dies ingloriously after stepping on a landmine. He was replacing another squad member who gets psychologically affected by the incident and, without trying to hide the tears in his eyes, begs his superior to return home. The request is denied by the considerate commander Claus, who can’t do much beyond assigning him duties inside the base, at least for some days. In the meantime, Claus’ wife, Maria (Tuva Novotny), tries the best she can to handle their three children, but not without a few startling incidents. 

The peak of the story, which triggers a complex moral question, is reached when, under heavy crossfire, the pressured Claus is forced to make a tough decision that will change his life forever. In order to protect his men, the brave officer, who frequently participates in the peripheral guarding missions with his patrol unit, orders a deadly attack on a delicate area called Compound 6, which he considered a military target. Shockingly, 11 civilians died in the attack, including women and children. Promptly dismissed, he’s sent back to Denmark in order to be tried, and facing the possibility of being sentenced to four years in prison for crimes of war. The accusation relies on a video from a helmet cam, photographic material, and testimonies of some of his men. 
It’s during this final section that we’re swallowed by a critical moral dilemma. Claus is ready to assume his guilt and willing to confess his mistake, but Maria persuades him of the opposite, begging him to plead innocence for the sake of their children.

Unpretentious, unfussy, and never beyond the limits of reasonable, “A War” evolves in a crescendo, exhibiting perfectly-shaped human characters molded through a rigorous approach that reinforces the urgency of its anti-war message. The finale, not so soothing as some viewers would like it to be, makes us carry this overwhelming weight in our chests. The absence of musical score also enlarges this discomfort.

A Second Chance (2014)

A Second Chance (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Susanne Bier
Country: Denmark

Movie Review: Promising were the first scenes of “A Second Chance”, a psychological crime thriller from the Danish filmmaker Susanne Bier, who filmed again in her country after the unexcitable American-French drama “Serena”, which once more gathered the trendy leading actors, Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence. Unfortunately, the disquieting beginning soon slides into something, not only dark but ghastly, as well as revelatory but also disproportionate and strained. The grim plot, written by Bier’s long-time collaborator Anders Thomas Jensen (“Brothers”, “In a Better World”), is certainly his heaviest, and tells the story of Andreas (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), a cop who reconnects with a known dangerous psychopath and heroin addict, Tristan (Nikolaj Lie Kaas), whose girlfriend, Sanne (May Andersen), called the police in an attempt to protect herself and their baby who was lying down inside a closet in deplorable conditions. This instance had emotional repercussions in Andreas who ran home to make sure his own little baby and his fatigued, vulnerable wife, Anne (Maria Bonnevie), were ok. At a first glance, everything was fine, but when unexpectedly the baby dies, the couple acts in a very distinct way. She completely freaks out, acting insane, while he maintains an earnest calmness but already with a not less insane plan in his mind: drop off his inanimate baby at the heroin junkies’ and steal theirs, in an attempt to ease the suicidal Anna. The brute Tristan, only thinking about how to avoid being sent to jail again, decides to simulate a kidnapping. Cold, depressing, and quite messy, “A Second Chance” takes the emotions to an extreme that doesn’t make it easy for the viewer to empathize with any of the unbalanced characters. Among the grievous performances, Mrs. Bonnevie stood out, in a screwed up tale that, even before halfway, made me lose hope in its personas. Mrs. Bier delays getting out of the tortuous cinematic paths she keeps embarking lately.

Silent Heart (2014)

Silent Heart (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Bille August
Country: Denmark

Movie Review: A very typical mood, composed of inherent tension and restrained laughter, it’s perceptible since the first minutes of the Scandinavian drama “Silent Heart” - part reflection on euthanasia, part portrait of a dysfunctional family. Directed by the veteran Bille August (“Pelle the Conqueror”, “The Best Intentions”), the story follows a family reunited during a weekend to spend their last days with Esther, the matriarch who suffers from ALS (a disorder involving the death of neurons). With the consent of the rest of the family, Esther has decided to spare everyone from the hardship that is stealthily approaching, and put an end to her life under the supervision of her doctor husband, Poul. Present at the reunion are: their exemplary older daughter Heidi, accompanied by her husband and adolescent son; their vulnerable, depressive younger daughter Sanne who took her weed junkie boyfriend with her; and finally Esther’s long-time best friend, Lisbeth. As expected, the plan won’t be too simple since the daughters planned to boycott the action after changing their minds for different reasons. A variety of personalities and needs, revelations and insecurities, old family memories, and some fabricated misunderstandings, make the rest of the story until the last moments, where the drama intensifies. In my eyes, the ending was a bit contrived, but Bille August, who always had a flair for pretty decent dramas, leaves in the air a sensation that he’s capable of giving us much better than this. From gentle to bitter, the sometimes-manipulative “Silent Heart” has its best scene when all the family agrees on smoking pot. The images were painted with dismayed colors, punctuated here and there by outdoor beautiful landscapes. Does serenity live here?

The Salvation (2014)

The Salvation (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Kristian Levring
Country: Denmark / UK / others

Movie Review: “The Salvation”, a Danish western directed by Kristian Levring and co-written with the credited Anders Thomas Jensen (mostly known for Susanne Bier’s dramas), swings between the positive and the negative, escaping from a more severe sentence due to the solid performances from Mads Mikkelsen and Jeffrey Dean Morgan, some interesting details on direction, and a great visual design by cinematographer Jens Schlosser. The time is 1817. Jon (Mikkelsen) is a pacific Danish citizen and former soldier who settled himself in America seven years before, in the company of his brother, leaving his wife and son behind with the promise that one day they would join him. That day finally arrived, but instead of celebrate, Jon will mourn his family, killed by two abusive strangers who shared the same carriage that would take them home. Driven by indignation and grief, Jon makes justice with his own hands, never imagining he could still be in trouble. One of the men was the brother of Delarue (Morgan), the town’s savage ruler who swore revenge, ordering the frightened sheriff to bring him the responsible man alive. Jon wouldn’t be able to get away if he hadn’t the help of a 16-year-old boy and Delarue’s mute sister-in-law who was saved from the Indians and now refuses to submit herself to his whims. Clear skies and extensive prairies don’t hide the gloominess of a story whose predictability and far-fetched scenes (a silly escape from prison and a cigar who sets one of the villains on fire) are weighing factors. The finale didn’t satisfy either, proving the steep decline of a Scandinavian western that even started at full steam. It probably might work fine for the admirers of western category, but for me it got stranded in the difficult lands of screenwriting.

When Animals Dream (2014)

When Animals Dream (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Jonas Alexander Arnby
Country: Denmark

Country: “When Animals Dream” marks the directorial debut for Danish filmmaker, Jonas Alexander Arnby, who counted with a convincing performance by Sonia Suhl and an admirable cinematography by Niels Thastum, to present a modern werewolf tale set in a small fishing village of Denmark. The script, written by Rasmus Birch, focuses on 19 year-old Marie (Suhl) who starts to be concerned about a rash that appeared in her chest. During a medical check-up done by the family doctor, he seemed to know exactly what this is about, since Marie’s mother had evinced similar symptoms before she became mute and completely debilitated for mysterious reasons. Everyone in town looks at Marie with a certain fear and suspicion, exactly as they were doing with her mother whose past is shrouded in blood. However, in her new job at the fish processing plant, Marie seems to get along with Daniel and Felix, but starts having some issues with Esben, a jerk who enjoys pulling tasteless pranks. Frustrated with the increase of strange symptoms (alterations on nails and gums, hair growth over the body, and a radical change of behavior), sad with the illness of her mother, and not very happy at her job, Marie was completely aware of her condition. The question was to know when and how it would happen, and who would be hurt. The idea behind “When Animals Dream” was auspicious, and Arnby was even capable of bestowing a chilled mood, similar to what we saw in “Let the Right One In”. However, the story’s conclusion felt hasty and short, interrupting what it had been built so tastefully. A more psychological approach was chosen instead of the usual graphical, and Arnby proves us he can cook a story. He just needs to throw in some surprise factors, especially for the endings.

Nymphomaniac: Vol. I and II (2013)

Nymphomaniac - Vol. I and II (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Lars Von Trier
Country: Demnark / others

Movie Review: Polemic filmmaker Lars Von Trier needed two parts of almost two hours each, and eight chapters, to tell the story of Joe, a self entitled nymphomaniac who recalls the most important details of her life in the presence of Seligman, a literate man who found her beaten up on an alley. Always provocative, as “Breaking the Waves” and “The Idiots” once were, “Nymphomaniac” mixes meditative observations of every kind – personal, social, artistic, religious – with explicit and incisive sexual moments whose occasional aggressiveness and psychological intrigue maintain the experience unique. The involving complexity showed in Joe’s behavior, her fearless risky games, fierce impulses, and constant demand for new sensations, put her in the limits of pleasure and suffering. Joe’s narrative touches in crucial points such as childhood and adolescence, loss of virginity, her love for Jerome with whom she had a son, obsession for sex, uncomfortable situations involving a married man and his family, the peculiar relationship with her loving dad and contempt of her mother, the ineffectiveness of group therapy, and final disillusions when she met a younger woman. Charlotte Gainsbourg became a natural choice for von Trier after the notable impressions left in “Antichrist” and “Melancholia”. Demanding some effort from the viewers, “Nymphomaniac” is aggressive, raw and deliberately explicit, but also philosophical in its analysis (human and artistic) and grievous in its finale. It’s a relentless study of an obsessive woman who desperately needs some humanity and compassion. Smiles and disturbance are guaranteed for the ones who see it with an open mind.

The Act of Killing (2012)

The Act of Killing (2012) - Movie Review
Directed by: Joshua Oppenheimer / others
Country: Denmark / UK / others

Movie Review: “The Act of Killing” is a hard-to-watch documentary about a bunch of Indonesian executioners (gangsters or free men according to their explanation), who were responsible for the death of more than one million people during the 1965-1966 anti-communist purge. They were supported by the Government and protected by a dangerous right-wing paramilitary organization called ‘Pancasila Youth’. Since most of them showed no regrets for thousands of deaths, boasting themselves with the crimes committed against innocent people, I wonder what these men are made of. The objective here was to make them recreate their own past actions, including interrogatories, torture, and consequent extermination of people they accused to be ‘communists’, nothing more than opponents of a corrupt and intolerant regime. Excited to be in a film representing their dirty work, the men revealed to be ignorant in many aspects, cruel executioners, and money extorters, making this film risible and appalling at the same time. Their performances have the same effect of a bizarre circus, recreating horrible methods of torture with an easiness that is quite shocking.  With illustrious documentarians such as Errol Morris and Werner Herzog as executive producers, “The Act of Killing” discloses scandalous truths that won’t leave you indifferent. Former assassins Anwar Congo and Adi Zulkadry were the main protagonists in a film that gathers all the madness associated to its characters, proving in a cynical, yet exceptional manner that pure evil really exists. Essential viewing!

Northwest (2013)

Northwest (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Michael Noer
Country: Denmark

Movie Review: Without being particularly original, “Northwest” gives a good notion of the multiracial conflicts in the Northwest’s Copenhagen's underworld. Casper is a 18-year-old burglar who works for Jamal, the leader of an Arab gang that controls the black market in town. Casper’s younger brother, Andy, isn’t very much welcome in the group, having inclusively some problems with Ali, a dangerous thug and Jamal's right-hand. Fed up of being tricked by the Arabs, Casper accepts a job's proposition made by Bjorn, a local drug dealer who also runs a prostitution business. Little by little, Casper involves his brother in these organized crime scenarios, but will have to deal with Jamal who starts to intimidate them. More about Casper and Andy’s personalities will be revealed when they are assigned to kill Jamal in his hiding place and things get out of control. Stepping known territories, “Northwest” revealed sufficient rawness and energy to be considered an efficient action-crime film. Helmer Michael Noer, who co-directed “R” with Tobias Lindholm in 2010, was capable of mixing racial and family issues in an engaging way, making us follow the story with expectation. Real brothers Gustav and Oscar Dyekjaer Giese did a great job, in a film that probably won’t be a reference in the genre but which offers interesting and believable situations.

Only God Forgives (2013)

Only God Forgives (2013)
Directed by: Nicolas Winding Refn
Country: Denmark / Thailand / others

Review: After the perfectly balanced “Drive”, Nicolas Winding Refn returns murkier than ever with “Only God Forgives”, an immoderately violent and tasteless film, which not even Ryan Gosling and Kristin Scott Thomas could save. The story centers on Julian (Gosling), a respected drug dealer who operates in Thailand’s underworld, and whose brother was murdered after having raped and killed a 16-year-old girl. That’s when their mother, Jenna (Thomas) arrives in Bangkok to take her son’s body with her, but not without demanding a proper revenge. Her cold and calculative character shocked me through statements and behaviors. This very dark case also involves an enigmatic cop (Vithaya Pansringarm) with a special ability to sing, a sort of punisher who knows everything and loves to make justice with his machete. “Only God Forgives” had so much potential to become a great film but it isn’t in fact. As usual, the dark mood that distinguishes Refn’s works is well done, and Larry Smith’s cinematography gives an authentic lesson on image composition filled with predominant hues of saturated red and yellow, but these aspects were completely turned down by extreme scenes of violence and torture, which became simply unbearable to watch. This is a macabre story filled with immoral excesses, with the exclusive goal of affecting us through pain and darkness. A dreadful and sadistic experience.

The Hunt (2012)

The Hunt (2012)
Directed by: Thomas Vinterberg
Country: Denmark

Review: After the immediate success of “The Celebration” in 98, Thomas Vinterberg has been lost in mediocre plots. Finally, with the gripping “The Hunt”, he shows once again what he is capable of. The story, written by Vinterberg and Tobias Lindholm (“R”, “A Hijacking”), depicts two hellish months in the life of Lucas, a divorced daycare worker who is struggling for his son’s custody. The troubles start when a little girl, who also happens to be the daughter of his best friend, tells the daycare director that Lucas showed his penis. When the director called him, he seems not to give much importance to the case or even try to defend himself. This scene intentionally aims to bewilder us. In a blink of an eye, Lucas loses his job, is abandoned by his new girlfriend, becomes threatened in many ways, and ends desperately alone. The film is filled with tension and is done in such way that the doubt persists till the end. It was incredible how many times I convinced myself that Lucas was innocent, but then some behavior or conversation made me go back again in my opinion. Mads Mikkelsen and the young Annika Wedderkop had first-rate performances, while the direction was very effective and determined. The heaviness of the matter was handled thoughtfully, provoking a variety of intense emotions, and making “The Hunt” one of the most gratifying experiences of 2013 so far.

Marie Kroyer (2012)

Marie Kroyer (2012)
Directed by: Bille August
Country: Denmark / Sweden

Review: “Marie Kroyer” is the typical film expected from a filmmaker such as Bille August. Taking into account his previous works, it’s easy to conclude that period dramas are the genre that he feels more comfortable with. This new feature-film depicts the relationship between the painter Peder Severin Kroyer and his wife Marie. The Kroyer couple seemed to live happily in fame and wealthy, but after a while we sensed that this happiness wasn’t so perfect but rather apparent. Suffering from bouts of mental illness, the talented painter becomes a threat to his family. Marie, whose dream was also to become a painter, was often hurt in her feelings by her husband's egocentrism. Their little daughter was another victim of his madness, in a couple of scenes that revealed to be simultaneously hilarious and sad. Exhausted, Marie leaves for Sweden to rest, eventually falling in love with a Swedish composer. Nevertheless, her life won't be easier. “Marie Kroyer” revealed competence and ability to entertain due to a refined ambiance and solid performances. It is not completely unpredictable or devoid of flaws, presenting coldness in moments that were asking for some more emotion. Yet, considering its story and genre, I believe it wouldn’t be easy to adopt a better approach in direction or create further excitement.

Love Is All You Need (2012)

Love Is All You Need (2012)
Directed by: Susanne Bier
Country: Denmark / Italy / others

Review: “Love Is All You Need” signals Susanne Bier’s return to comedy, after several years evincing great eye and solid hand for drama (“Open Hearts”, “After The Wedding”, “In A Better World”). The result was extremely disappointing; her weakest work so far. Patrick and Astrid decided to leave Denmark to get married in an old villa in Italy, where their families will join them. It’s excused to say that a pile of conflicts, dilemmas and separations will occur. Groom’s dad (Pierce Brosnan) and bride’s mom (Tryne Tyrholm) will become the beneficiaries of this gathering. Consecutively, and using a recurrent cheesy tone, we can witness the deep transformations on every single member of both families involved. I wouldn’t have nothing against it, if the plot wasn’t simultaneously predictable, weepy and drastically messy.  This story falls between sloppy comedy and overdramatic romance, where all the tension created among the characters was wrapped in triviality. Dean Martin’s tune “That’s Amore” annoyingly fills our ears over and over again, in a movie that was only able to impress through its beautiful southern Italian landscapes.

A Hijacking (2012)

A Hijacking (2012)
Directed by: Tobias Lindholm
Country: Denmark

Review: “A Hijacking” has a simple but effective plot regarding the capture of a Danish cargo ship by Somali pirates along the African coast. The story centers in two different fronts: on the ship, where the cook Mikkel struggles with fear and despair, and inside the naval-company premises in Copenhagen, where negotiations will take place in order to find a viable solution for both parts. The script rejected the usual violence or stirring situations, opting instead for a more psychological approach with proper doses of claustrophobia and impatience. Do not expect an electrifying film, since the negotiation process is slow, with ups and downs, and includes constant threats and bluffs. Whenever something atypical occurred, I expected some fierceness to arise. But that never happened. Hostile moments were scarce, only leading to stressful behaviors by the hijacked. The same cannot be said about the unexpected and shocking ending, which gave the final blow on the psychological study aimed by writer/director Tobias Lindholm. Despite the coldness and low profile maintained, “A Hijacking” cannot be disregarded, avoiding being manipulative and conveying a sensation of truthfulness.

A Royal Affair (2012)

A Royal Affair (2012)
Directed by: Nikolaj Arcel
Country: Denmark / others

Review: The title "A Royal Affair" could not have been more clearer about the essence of this story: a forbidden love affair wrapped in conspiracy and set in 18th Century's Danish Royal Court. It unveils the torments of a beautiful English woman, who became queen of Denmark, after having married with the crazy and childish king Christian VII. Her grief will be attenuated when she starts a passionate romance with a libertine doctor and freethinker, who additionally had become her husband’s best friend. The plan sequences are slow, frequently lacking intensity, while the content is too dense and lengthened. I could not feel any pity of the characters in this cold representation of Christian VII’s reign. Rasmus Heisterberg wrote the screenplay (also for “The Girl With The Dragon Tatoo”), based in the novel by Bodil Steensen-Leth.
Relevant awards: Berlin, Philadelphia.

Teddy Bear (2012)

Directed by: Mads Matthiesen
Country: Denmark

Plot: Dennis would really like to find true love. He has never had a girlfriend and lives alone with his mother in a suburb of Copenhagen.
Review: Dennis is a middle-aged bodybuilder, who lives with a possessive and dependent mother. His attempts to build solid relationships with women, are hampered by psychological problems related with sex. This frustration will lead him to plan a trip to Thailand, where according to his uncle, is easier to establish contact with a woman. The character of Dennis was very well projected and compellingly performed by Kim Kold. The fact that we can't guess what's coming next is the plot's biggest virtue. This is a simple but serious movie about maturity, willpower and the difficulty to break some dearest yet unhealthy family ties.
Relevant awards: Direction (Sundance).