Tag Archives: Denmark

Review: Love Is All You Need

love_is_all_you_need_20000147_st_7_s-high(Susanne Bier, 2012)

Collaborating for the fifth time with writer Anders Thomas Jensen – following Open Hearts (2002), Brothers (2004), After the Wedding (2007) and the Academy Award winning In a Better World (2010), Danish director Susanne Bier returns to cinematic consciousness with Love Is All You Need (2012), perhaps her most broadly mainstream film yet. Set both in her native Denmark and the sun-kissed shores of the southern coast of Italy, Bier’s latest is a frothy mixture of romantic comedy and familial unrest as she surveys the looming nuptials of a young couple whose respective parents are reaching something of a crossroads in their vastly dissimilar lives.

 The remarkable Trine Dyrholm plays Ida, a Danish hairdresser who, whilst recuperating from chemotherapy and waiting for the results of her final oncological tests, discovers her slobbish husband Leife (Kim Bodnia) is cheating on her with a younger woman. Meanwhile Philip (played by Pierce Brosnan), an Englishman living in Denmark, is a lonely, middle-aged widower and estranged single father whose contentment in a life of moneyed solitude has rendered him consistently uninterested in forming lasting relationships.

 Events conspire to entwine these two increasingly lost souls as they embark on their journey for Italy to attend the wedding of Ida’s daughter Astrid and Philip’s son Patrick, young lovers whose path to matrimony has a few obstacles in store.

 Marking a notable change in tone in comparison to her previous hard-hitting dramas, Bier’s Love Is All You Need is a grounded but somewhat slight and uninspired perusal through several romantic comedy clichés, suffering from a narrative that owes a considerable debt to films such as Mamma Mia! (2008) and Laws of Attraction (2004), both of which also star Brosnan. In a rather sloppy appropriation of the genre, Jensen’s screenplay spends too much time establishing the characters and their respective settings that he forgets to actually imbue them with any particularly memorable flavours, entrenched as they are in well-worn tropes and characteristics. The relationships shared between the various lovers, friends and family feel shallow and underdeveloped, making early sequences – and many pivotal later ones – appear weightless and underdone, giving the illusion of believability despite a distinct lack of properly drawn histories and emotions. This is notable through Brosnan’s character, whose alienated relationship with his progressively confounded son isn’t given the time to breath or develop.

 Sumptuously captured by cinematographer Morten Søborg, the film moves along at a brisk pace and slowly becomes more engrossing once it decides that the budding relationship shared between Dyrholm and Brosnan is its most significant overarching plot, but the beautiful, sun-dappled scenery barely masks a threadbare story that wears its predictabilities on its sleeves. If warmth is all you need for a comfortable romantic comedy, then Love Is All You Need provides the requisite fodder, just don’t expect anything particularly affecting from a filmmaker trying to meet Dogme-inflected panache with a more conventional model.

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Review: The Hunt

(Thomas Vinterberg, 2011)

Thomas Vinterberg’s Festen explored a heated family celebration made all the more corrosive by the revelation of child abuse, a narrative exposure underscored by the exacting and naturalistic values and methods of the Dogme 95 movement it inaugurated. Vinterberg’s latest, The Hunt, breaks free from the strictures of that simplistic form by concentrating on a similarly scathing accusation, one that sets about destroying a seemingly perfect idyll. (Continue reading here)

Review: A Royal Affair

(Nikolaj Arcel, 2012, Denmark)
(Originally posted at Take One)

Showing further evidence that Nikolaj Arcel is nothing but a diverse filmmaker (after having co-wrote the original Swedish version of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and the 2002 children’s heist film Catch That Kid), his latest directorial effort, the somewhat unexcitingly titled A Royal Affair, sees Arcel taking on a factual intrigue in Danish history – part political thriller, part epic love story – and bringing to it a seamless confidence that emanates throughout its handsomely devastating proceedings. The film is produced by the Zentropa film company and executive produced by Lars Von Trier, but there are no whiffs of the minimalist Dogme movement they have become known for.

Rising Swedish star Alicia Vikander plays Carolina Mathilde, an English princess arriving in 1766’s Denmark to enter into what transpires to be a challenging, unromantic marriage to King Christian VII (Mikkel Boe Følsgaard), a mentally unhinged monarch prone to dalliances in brothels, juvenile outbursts and excessive masturbation. Appointed as his personal surgeon, local doctor Johann Friedrich Struensee (a superb Mads Mikkelsen, of Casino Royale fame) is able to worm his way into Christian’s apparently tormented psychology, gaining the king’s devotion and trust whilst successfully, and clandestinely, using his influences to alter the laws of the country in the favour of the free-thinking Enlightenment movement. Whilst stimulating his king and country toward a state of societal reform, Struensee enters into an illicit affair with Carolina, which has dangerous ramifications when the powerful figures, who are becoming increasingly sidelined by the king’s manipulation, seek to destabilise this new regime, building towards Struensee’s ultimate downfall.

Having at its core three strong and believable performances, even if Følsgaard’s sniggeringly grotesque Christian teeters on caricature, A Royal Affair is a sumptuous and grandiose film that matches its scandalous historical backdrop with impressive visual flairs and a sexually and politically frank demeanour. Combining an exquisite attention to detail in the sets and period costumes as well as a modern stylistic sensibility that benefits from fluid, balanced cinematography, Arcel manages to break away from the usual trappings of period dramas and brings a rousingly tense atmosphere and an engaging pathos to the central narrative of a faltering kingdom at the brunt of a secretive but well-meaning upheaval.

Effectively the story of two relationships concerning Struensee and the respective king and queen of Denmark, the film suffers only slightly from its overly sombre mood, occasionally scuppered by a tendency to shift wholeheartedly into calculating melodrama. Yet Arcel, who also penned the tactile screenplay alongside Dragon Tattoo partner Rasmus Heisterberg, rarely lets these elements of the story distract from the film’s overall simmering atmosphere, which is appropriately and disarmingly sustained until boiling over in a cold and convincingly poignant dénouement. Although the credibility of the romantic subplot between Struensee and Carolina is somewhat undone by a lack of definition, with the beatific Vikander and a reserved, vaguely arrogant Mikkelsen given little time to demonstrate a particularly involving chemistry, as well as a disappointingly short exploration of the full effects that Struensee’s duplicity has on the wayward Christian- which is summed up all too vicariously at the end, A Royal Affair is, however, a refreshingly tender period piece that fully utilises its plethora of cinematic elements to fine effect.