“ Actors: Mikael Persbrandt, Trine Dyrholm, Ulrich Thomsen, Markus Rygaard, William Jøhnk Nielsen / Director: Susanne Bier / Language: Danish / Subtitles: English / Classification: 15 / Studio: Axiom Films / DVD Release Date: 9 Jan 2012 / Run Time: 113 minutes „
* Prices may differ from that shown
Star - Director Susan Bier
Genre - World Cinema (Drama)
Certificate - R18
Run Time - 119 minutes
Country - Denmark
Blockbuster Rental- £0.99 per night
Awards - I Oscar
Amazon -£4.89 DVD (£7.49 Blue Ray)
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So 'In a Better World', the 2011 Oscar winner for 'Best film in a Foreign Language', and well worth that prestigious award, a cracking emotive drama from Denmark, a country and region that does emotional intelligence and visual metaphors like no other. Susan Bier is the business as far as Scandinavian directors go and her mission here to blow apart - literally - the myth that Denmark is a rather blissful place of pullovers and tranquil forests, exploring that festering angst and guilt Anders Breivik exploded with two years ago. Indeed the party the mass murderer supported gained increased election seats because of his outrage and their blue collar frustration.
To quote Bier on her film: "Our experiment in this film is about looking at how little it really takes before a child - or an adult - thinks something is deeply unjust. It really doesn't take much, and I find that profoundly interesting. And scary'.
Although the film centers around two privileged middle-class Danish families and how they intertwine it also taps into the link between violence and humiliation that we experience in our everyday lives and communities. You learn pretty quickly in life that if working-class people are 'shown up' they will lash out as they feel it's an attack on their status, rather than the person, the inability to create wealth. But you simply can't attack the middle-class on that and so they remain unflappable. They tend to bottle up their anger and frustrations, which rots into middle-class guilt, morals you are forced to adhere to remain aloof from other social classes. But if you take away the class separation rules then all people quickly regress to cavemen in their attitudes to get retribution and revenge, the subject of this engaging and thought provoking film.
* Mikael Persbrandt as Anton
* Trine Dyrholm as Marianne
* Ulrich Thomsen as Claus
* William Jøhnk Juels Nielsen as Christian
* Markus Rygaard as Elias
* Simon Maagaard Holm as Sofus
* Kim Bodnia as Lars
* Wil Johnson as doctor
=== The Plot===
A Swedish doctor, Anton (Mikael Persbrandt), commutes between his idyllic rural hometown in Denmark to his work at a war torn African refugee camp, two very different worlds, as you would expect. With his Danish doctor wife Marianne (Trine Dyrholm), they have two young sons, but facing divorce because of that intense separation and shattered by being a witness of war.
Their older, ten-year-old son Elias (Markus Rygaard) is being bullied at school because he has a slight facial impediment and wears a dental brace, an imperfection not appreciated in such a blissful place. But things look up when he is defended by brooding Christian (William Jøhnk Juels Nielsen), a new boy who has just moved from London with his father, Claus (Ulrich Thomsen). Christian's mother recently died of cancer, and Christian is angry and troubled by her death and looking to take out his anger on others.
In Africa, Anton is treating gruesome injuries every day, some inflicted on young girls by the local warlord, adding to Anton's simmering ire with the world. Claus is having a different kind of conflict back home in Denmark, son Christen feuding with him for letting mom die, taking it out on the school bully, an act that draws attention to the more timid Elias. But when dad Anton is bullied by a mechanic in front of his kids the boys can't understand why he didn't hit back like they have.
Elias and Christian have formed a strong bond and Christian involves Elias in a dangerous act of revenge against the mechanic with potentially tragic consequences, their friendship tested and lives put in danger.
I have always said the smartest movies are foreign ones and the films from Scandinavia some of the best and most atmospheric, this one right up there. It's refreshing its not crime noir for once from this region and Susan Bier's use of visual metaphors through the stunning cinematography of her films a real iridescent visual treat. You should see this one just for the look, some quite startling images throughout.
It's a film that provokes discussion on how adults and children deal with bullying, accepted as part of growing up for kids, humiliating if you are an adult. As an adult you can't lash out like you would at school as mediation or the meek surrender or turning the other cheek is considered the mature thing to do. For all the moral lessons you teach your kids about bullying there is only ever one solution and that always escalates things. We quickly learn in life that being a bully and being arrogant gets you further in life, the message the film flirts with. Are you weak if you don't hit back and so sensibly avoid that escalation? The only power the blue-collar class has over its betters is the ubiquitous threat of violence.
Its $5 million budget is spent well and the acting superb, the youngsters particularly good, Bier's direction enabling increasingly unlikely dramatic situations to blend with an intelligent script. It really deals with that guilt and restraint we all live with to retain a civilized society. The brutal African warlord kills and attacks with impunity to get the power he wants and yet it he is still dependent on the compassion of the soft and skilled hands of the bullied doctor back home putting up with all his crap to save him. Bullies do it more than once as they know it works.
This will obviously appeal more to foreign films fans and one to tape off Film4 when it pops up one day, but also something the anti sub-title crowd should try. Anyone who doesn't watch top quality smart movies because of subtitles is being somewhat ignorant. A subtitle often means quality. Try it one day before Hollywood roots your movie teeth with all that popcorn.
Bier is proud of the intelligence in her work and enjoys explaining why she did the things in her film, if you missed the point and reason.
Cast & Crew discuss the movie.
Imdb.com - 7.6/10.0 (22,324 votes)
Metacrtic.com - 65% critic's approval
Rottentomatos.com - 77% critic's approval
Financial times -'Bier, when she allows herself, loves the peripheral as much as the portentous. She understands that an image can tell more than words, more than even 1,000'.
Little White Lies -'A compelling coming-of-age story and an intriguing examination of notions of masculinity'.
SKY Movies-' Director Bier and her regular screenwriter Anders Thomas Jensen construct a believable series of events where notions of Western civilization as opposed to Third World moral disarray are put to the test'.
Top Critic -' The film is built on strong performances and some powerful moments, though its subtleties risk being eclipsed by contrived emotional pyrotechnics'.
Time Out -' True, the resolutions on offer seem conventionally pat, yet the tough questions stay with you in an absorbing drama which pushes the viewer's buttons with effective intelligence'.
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