Monday 28 November 2011

Den du frygter (Fear Me Not)

I love Danish films. Ulrich Thomsen is one of my favorite actors. He is able to play normal. Normal is really difficult to find in an actor, but he nails it. Having said that, his characters are always crazy! He got known after the film 'Festen', and I've been hooked on his work ever since.

What I love about Danish cinema is how real it is. How much it grips you. 'Fear Me Not' (Danish Title: Den Du Frygter) could never be made in America or the UK. I just don't think we have the capability. We see movies in a different way. The film is subtle and nuanced to a remarkable degree. The problem is, most directors try to be 'subtle'. It's an artistic choice. With Danish movies, it's just their way. The culture. The rhythm. 

'Fear Me Not' is an insane film to watch because, for a while, it's so relaxed and mundane that you're almost certain you're bored, but you don't realise you've been watching for fifty minutes already, just completely sinking into it. And then there's a twist. Not a Hollywood twist, not an oh-look-how-clever-we-are-twist, it's just a twist. Just like in real life, you think you know what a thing is and then it turns into the other thing. 

And that's why, if you're making a film in Denmark, you want Ulrich Thomsen in it, because we believe in him. And we relate to him. The problem with Hollywood is that when you relate to someone, they always have a moral reason for doing something. And if they don't, then rather than leave us dangling in uncertainty, we get reminded that they've lost their mental faculties. It's like with 'Taxi Driver', you relate to De Niro at first, and then he starts to go a bit mad and then you feel on edge. It'd be great to be left on this edge, but unfortunately he gets taken to bigger extremes and we learn to see him and judge him from afar. 

But not in 'Fear Me Not'. We see a character living the mundane life, in a marriage and home that's causing him frustration, and we relate to it. And then he does something despicable, disgusting, outrageous. And suddenly we're very tense, as we watch, because it wasn't expected at all. And we want to hate him, want to judge him, but we can't, because the edge is so perfectly balanced. 

And for the rest of the movie we're glued. We want to know what he'll do. When the next bomb will drop. And the bombs keep dropping. But they're not actual bombs like in a Hollywood movie, they're just the things he says and does to people. We cringe, but we keep watching. 

Towards the end, the twist comes. The twist is not even a twist so much as it's a fact we find out, and it changes our whole perception of Thomsen's character. It was the same in 'Festen' and the same in 'The Inheritance' (Danish Title: Arven); there were very real characters, going through very real problems, and then they deal with them slightly differently to what we expect, to what we're used to. But we're engrossed, because it's so believable. 

I don't know how they get the actors to be so good in these Danish movies. Paprika Steen is the female version of Thomsen (not surprising that they collaborate often). She's so truthful, so real. You're just mesmerised. All of the moments between the characters pull you in; you're there with them and you totally forget about your problems and your Tweets, you're in the movie. They're masters at what they do.

This film is fascinating. It's disturbing. It's tense. It's dramatic. You relate to some of it, and other parts you hope you don't relate to. Thomsen and Steen are so real and so natural that you totally buy into everything. They could suddenly discover aliens half way through, and you'd believe them. That's how good they are. 

A great film. Danish films are not for everyone, but give them a go. If you end up liking them, you'll rediscover your passion for films and storytelling all over again. 

Care to share?

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