Director: Susanne Bier.
Starring. Mads Mikkelsen, Sidse Babett Knudsen, Denmark/India/Sweden. 2h 2m.
There’s a strange sense of duty and a unique stiff upper lip with Scandinavian culture, often associated with bravery and wisdom, sometimes things get a little sharp and precise with the Northern European restraint, and it unfolds with a glorious and bitter results.
The film opens with Jacob (Mikkelsen) a good Samaritan who has cast off all the luxuries of Denmark and is running an orphanage in India which is in dire need of funding. A mysterious man Jorgen (Lasagard) insists on giving the a large sum of money to the cause but only if he gets to meet with face to face, at first he’s hesitant but then soon realises the fate of the children rests on his shoulders.
He’s put up in the finest hotel and makes his best appearance with this meeting with large and loud mogul. Jacob is taken back by his brash nature, he insists that he must live in Denmark and attend his daughter’s wedding to secure funding. Unwilling to return home Jacob ponders his future but attends the wedding anyway, as he still has time to back out, and he’s doing it for the kids. So Jacob turns up at wedding and discovers that Jorgen’s 18 year old daughter is a stunner and his ex his her mother and he hasn’t seen her for 18 years…
Reality smacks Jacob hard, he’s suddenly thrust into a difficult spot at a supposedly happy occasion, unable to speak out he internalises his fears, hate, anger and hurt. Madds plays this part so well, giving his ex and her new husband some deadly cold stares, he’s dead on the inside and there is a storm brewing. Helene (Knudsen) does her best to keep her distance as she knows what’s coming. As the storm erupts, another twist is played and the film really gains momentum.
Bier is obsessed with eyes, every scene is littered with close up of everyone’s eyes, as if she’s searching for some windows into the soul, a bare truth that can’t be hidden and the actors do a good job of keeping this pretence up as guilt, honesty are reflected back in every scene and we know for a fact they have nothing to hide, this isn’t a documentary. Jorgen (Lasagard) is the only person who escapes this fate, his character is purely his status and wealth, he’s shown as a large and often drunk and angry man, often in his lavish mansion or a plush office, he oozes his money though his slurred speech and brutish nature, he’s a jerk, which is displayed perfectly in a scene where he takes Jacob to lunch, and is asked to leave because he’s clearly over the limit and makes a huge scene threatening staff then stumbles out.
Parenthood is the key, Jacob had a beautiful relationship with Helene they split, he found his calling looking after children as a single man, cutting his ties and shrugging off the greedy nature of cities and society back home, a noble act, but then everything turns upside down he doesn’t know where his allegiance lies. He didn’t know what was going on, but if he did things would have been different, but would he be different?
The films ends on an interesting note, back in India, Jacob has a favourite boy who he nurtures like a son, but the conversation they have in the final throws of the film says it all.
A brilliant drama that stays pretty low key with explosive moments and strangely like other European films like Den brysomme mannen/Bothersome Man (2006) and A Pigeon sitting on a branch Reflecting on existence (2014) they talk about morals and values of a society losing it’s way but in a much less surreal nature. There are probably some social metaphors that each character represents here, the old stuffy entitled fat man with no culture is out the door making way for modern progress, or maybe it’s just a story about parenthood.
R – Royal Affair (2012), Jagten/The Hunt (2012), Oldboy (2003) Bothersome Man (2014) A Pigeon sitting on a branch Reflecting on existence (2014)
L – Scandinavian Society Films
5s – Mads Mikkelsen
e, a, denmark, india, Sweden, 2006, scan avian, drama, families, weddings, mads mikkelsen, 8, susanne bier,