Saturday, June 25, 2011

in a better world

No longer playing in Vancouver. Watching for the DVD release...

A few years back, two equally remarkable foreign films appeared, at around the same time. I never understood why one of them - The Lives Of Others - was seen and celebrated by pretty much everybody, where the other - After The Wedding - went largely unwatched. Perhaps because the Florian Henkel von Donnersmark film won the Oscar: perhaps because it was directed by someone with the irresistable name Florian Henkel von Donnersmark - Oscar bait for sure. I ended up preferring Susanne Bier's neglected After The Wedding, but that could just be my anti-band-wagon-istic tendencies. This much I'll say: alongside Please Give, one of only two films I can think of about philanthropy.

In any case, this time around Bier nabbed the statue, so one can hope her latest lensing will draw the wider audience that the shiny little dude seems to attract.

I finally managed to see the film the other day and recommend it, though it can be tough going at times. It cuts close, in a city still coping with the display of human violence that was the Stanley Cup riot: it's about violence and power, retribution and conscience, on a schoolyard in Denmark and in Darfur refugee camps.

Not only is it directed by Bier, but the screenplay is by Anders Thomas Jensen, who wrote
After The Wedding. Both films are complex, mature, unpredictable, taken up with difficult interpersonal / moral questions. A personal favourite (but definitely not everyone's cup of tea) is the extraordinarily black, extraordinarily bizarre, extraordinarily (Scandanavianly) funny Adam's Apples, also written and directed by Jensen. I really can't escape the impression that he and/or Bier must be Christian, or at least preoccupied with or steeped in Christian faith.  (I see that Jensen/Biers both have roots in the Dogme movement, and have collaborated before, on Open Hearts [2002] and Brothers [2004].)
In A Better World shows only once daily, at 2:30, at the Denman - the last stop for films on their way out of town. And with the demise of Videomatica, I don't know how one will be able to see it once it's gone. So make the effort, before time runs out.

Anton and his wife Marianne are doctors. Much of his time is spent in Africa, where he tends the sick under harsh and even dangerous conditions; she remains at home in Denmark. Now separated, they have two sons, one of whom, Elias, is badly bullied at school — a crisis that endures until a new boy named Christian arrives. At no point does Susanne Bier’s film stray far from the borders of violence, whether it’s the violence of disease, of calculated payback, or simply of insufferable feeling. By and large, the children in the movie cleave instinctively to an Old Testament view of wrongs inflicted and answered, whereas most of the adults, who seem at once weaker and more disciplined, subscribe, at least in theory, to Christian forgiveness. The movie retains grip and grace, and the performances — by the child actors, in particular — quicken the pulse of life. Winner of this year’s Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. In Danish.

Anthony Lane, The New Yorker
Susanne Bier on In A Better World: "It's about the distance between being savable and not savable. At what point does redemption become impossible? Is there such a point?"

No comments: