Posted by: greercn | October 18, 2011

In A Better World (Haevnen)

When this won the 2011 Best Foreign Language Oscar, I thought it had robbed “Biutiful”, “Incendies” and “Hors La Loi” of a prize deserved by any of them.”I Am Love” was not even nominated.

This extraordinarily moving Danish film is worthy of the honour. Susanne Bier has achieved a truly innovative and thoughtful piece of film-making which explores war, violence, marriage and childhood in utterly new ways that feel real and compelling to watch.

It rivets your attention from the first scene. Anton (Mikael Persbrandt) is a Swedish doctor living in Denmark, but commuting to a refugee camp in Africa where a brutal warlord and his followers rule. Separated from his wife Marianne (Trine Dyrholm), he works hard to be a good father to his two boys.

Older son Elias is being bullied at school, until new classmate Christian moves from London. Christian’s mother has died of cancer and his father, Claus (Ulrich Thomsen)  is struggling with bereavement and parenthood.

The rich ways in which the various strands of the story are examined are really rather beautiful. Filmed in Kenya and Denmark, landscape and sea are used to great effect.

I am unfamiliar with Bier’s previous films, but I shall seek them all out.

William Johnk Juels Nielsen plays Christian and Markus Rygaard takes the role of Elias. Both are completely believable and just terrific.

“Haevnen” literally means “revenge” in Danish and it is a complex sub-plot in which Christian and Elias plot to get retribution which forms the central hub of the story, in tandem with Anton’s struggles with repairing injuries inflicted by violent thugs in Africa.

It’s a visual treat. Seek it out and savour every moment.

It’s disappointing that only about 10 people attended this Stratford Picturehouse special screening, which only cost £2 for Members. No other East London cinema has shown it.

It’s a real privilege to see such an intelligent, beautiful and well-acted drama. See it, somehow. It will lift and move you. I came out of it crying and I never do that, but I am glad I was so profoundly affected. Humanity and warmth are too often lacking in movies. “In A Better World” is a rare film of great quality.

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