Sunday, 24 April 2011

In a Better World / Hævnen

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Dir: Susanne Bier (After the Wedding / Efter brylluppet, Brødre, The Things We Lost in the Fire)
Cast: Mikael Persbrandt, William Jøhnk Nielsen, Trine Dyrholm, Markus Rygaard, Ulrich Thomsen
Denmark/Sweden, 2011

Seen: April 19, 2011 at Varsity

Reason to see: This year's Oscar winner for foreign film, and I love Susanne Bier's films, especially After the Wedding / Efter brylluppet

In a Better World / Hævnen is an extraordinary film. It's a heart-wrenching drama that presents, poses & pushes the boundaries in terms of power, control and the use of violence. It's odd because that is 100% true, but it doesn't always feel like that is the film you are watching as it's mostly through scenarios involving the two families that make up the majority of the ensemble cast. The family dynamic are powerful and as interesting as all the control and power play throughout the film.

One of the things I love about Susanne Bier's films is that you instantly understand the emotional relationships between the characters in the film, before they are explained - if they even are explained. The performance from the actors are so strong that they instantly draw you in and make you want to know more. A dynamic is created and understood, but you want to know the why behind it. I found this the strongest between the father/son relationship of Claus (Ulrich Thomsen of Fear Me Not / Den du frygter) and Christian (William Jøhnk Nielsen), where you can easily feel the power imbalance but continue to wonder why. We also see an interesting family dynamic through the young and bullied Elias (Markus Rygaard) and loving mother Marianne (Trine Dyrholm) and father Anton (Mikael Persbrandt), a doctor who often travels abroad to and treats villagers. With this family we see less inner turmoil but more dealing with being outsiders in several scenarios which makes them on the receiving end of tension quite often.

Internal and external forces are at work here, and as much as we see the families cope and struggle with their own support systems, they they also deal with external factors which can bright heightened tension into the mix and the question of morality comes strongly to the surface. Also questions come into play of when principle is pushed from concept to an actual real scenario, will people stand by their words, or succumb to reacting outside their comfort zone. What pushes people to act out, to lash out and to hurt others, or to choose inaction over action. Is it ever justified? Who gets hurt? What does that say, how does that feel, and what does that teach? What example is set? Who learns from it, if anyone?

It's a fascinating, and tough question to ask and the film is very brave in how it tackles these questions. The characters and complex, compelling and brought to live by the extraordinary cast, in particular William Jøhnk Nielsen who gives an amazing performance for someone so young. I absolutely loved the journeys, even though they were often harsh and challenging, but they always felt true. I believed every action, emotion and moment in the film. I highly recommend it, although want to know that there are a few disturbing ideas and images that aren't easy to take in and might tip people over the edge. But for me, the power and value of the journey was well worth it.

Warnings: Disturbing ideas & imagery

Shannon's Overall View:
I loved it
I'll own it
I highly recommend it, but note the warnings

Also see: All 2011 Films Reviewed and All Film Reviews

© Shannon Ridler, 2011

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All content on Movie Moxie is written by Shannon Ridler, © 2006 - 2012