TIFF20 REVIEW: Druk [Another Round] [2020]

Have I become boring? If you find yourself needing to latch onto an obscure scientific theory to reinvigorate your energy level and live your life as more than a sleepwalking zombie, you’re probably not ready to actually confront the real problem. We know this to be true of the quartet at the center of Thomas Vinterberg‘s Druk [Another Round] since our first impression of Tommy (Thomas Bo Larsen), Peter (Lars Ranthe), Nikolaj (Magnus Millang), and, especially, Martin (Mads Mikkelsen) is that they have lost their spark. Sexually, intellectually, physically, emotionally—whatever…

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REVIEW: Selvmordsturisten [Exit Plan] [2019]

Life never stops. Life is forever. Max (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) is an insurance adjuster who just told his latest client that her claim wouldn’t be approved since her husband’s six-month disappearance isn’t confirmation of death. It’s a revelation that leaves her distressed not because she won’t be getting the money, but because she’ll have to continue living with the possibility he might still be alive. She wishes for a body because it would provide answers. She wishes Max would sign-off on the plan anyway because doing so would supply a legal…

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TIFF19 REVIEW: Harpiks [Resin] [2019]

They ruin everything. Published in 2015, Ane Riel’s novel Harpiks [Resin] found itself the winner of four major Scandinavian literary awards on its way to international bestseller status. It’s no wonder then that it would be optioned as a film so soon afterwards by fellow Danes Daniel Borgman (director) and Bo Hr. Hansen (screenwriter). A dark thriller centered upon a close-knit family of hermits, the story unfolds as though of two worlds: theirs and ours. Jens (Peter Plaugborg) and Maria (Sofie Gråbøl) created this division intentionally as an irrational fear…

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FANTASIA18 REVIEW: Sankt Bernhard Syndikatet [The Saint Bernard Syndicate] [2018]

I call it the panda of the west. There’s something profound about Danish director Mads Brügger‘s documentaries due to his entering dangerous countries under false pretext to capture a result. Whether it’s heading to North Korea as a vaudeville act or the Central African Republic as a Liberian ambassador attempting to infiltrate the illegal blood diamond trade, he creates politically motivated art with an intellectually subversive edge that proves as entertaining as it is enlightening. He’s an edgy, thinking man’s Sacha Baron Cohen in that regard, building characters to go…

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TIFF17 REVIEW: Vinterbrødre [Winter Brothers] [2017]

“Everyone has a little darkness in them” It opens in darkness—the beams from headlamp flashlights and sparks of metal on rock our only points of illumination. This is the oppressive environment holding the over-worked and under-paid miners while their boss sits in his factory office without a care as to who the men in his employ are besides a social security number. They let off steam with a bottle of homebrew alcohol to cut the monotony of their daily routines before returning to their respective trailers back in town that…

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TIFF17 REVIEW: Du forsvinder [You Disappear] [2017]

“We just want to make sure you’re well enough” What if it was an established fact that free will as a concept was dictated by our body’s chemistry? Every decision we think we’re making is really made implicitly by our organs—more correctly, they are dictating to our brains what it is we want. That shopping spree for things you don’t need? That affair with someone you don’t even like? You can’t control either impulse if you truly wanted to because your hormones and biological imperatives in those specific moments have…

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REVIEW: Under sandet [Land of Mine] [2015]

“I’ll make it home” War is a horrific reality that forces people into doing terrible things. Everyone sees him/herself as being on the side of “good” and “righteous”—look at the discrepancies from one history book to another in how education systems describe certain events to shine one’s own nation in a rosier tint than it might actually deserve. There are of course exceptions, though. This idea obviously doesn’t work in regards to genocide, but I don’t think any Germans today (white supremacists excepted) believe Hitler did God’s work or are…

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REVIEW: Silent Nights [2016]

“I live a very hard life” It’s extremely difficult for me to blindly accept a film like Aske Bang‘s Silent Nights on faith. The idea that someone can do bad things—no matter how good he/she is at heart—and continuously be rewarded is a tough sell. But that’s exactly what this look at immigration through a charitable Danish lens attempts. A man may be a saint, but that doesn’t excuse thieving, adultery, or lying with ease. I understand the message comes down to “hard living” and “impossible decisions,” but the film’s…

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TIFF16 REVIEW: I blodet [In the Blood] [2016]

“We’re gonna have a great summer” If forty’s the new thirty, twenty-three can easily become the new thirteen. I think first-time director Rasmus Hiesterberg would agree as the man behind screenplays for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Swedish) and A Royal Affair delves into a med student’s coming-of-age drama in I blodet [In the Blood]. What’s often reserved for younger children moving towards adolescence, eighteen at the oldest shifting from high school to college, the genre truthfully fits any period in one’s life if his/her maturity hasn’t quite sunk…

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FANTASIA16 REVIEW: Shelley [2016]

“But it’s not just about the money” Everything starts so innocently that you’d be hard-pressed to realize Ali Abbasi‘s Shelley is a horror film besides the score’s dread-inducing soundscape rising to a deafening level of static. Sure the setting’s weird with Louise (Ellen Dorrit Petersen) and Kasper (Peter Christoffersen) living in the Danish woods without electricity or running water far-removed from civilization, but the world’s fill of eccentrics. They’re actually quite nice, bringing in a new maid (Cosmina Stratan‘s Romanian single mother Elena) with open arms and warm smiles. It…

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REVIEW: Adams æbler [Adam’s Apples] [2005]

“That’s just plain rude” God works in mysterious ways—very mysterious ways. Or at least that’s what Anders Thomas Jensen‘s pitch-black fable Adams æbler [Adam’s Apples] will have us believe. It may just be plain old faith as the mere belief in good and evil sometimes gets you through the tragedies miring your life, dictating that everything happens for a reason. No matter how bad things get, having the faith that you’ll prevail is literally enough to make it true. To have God in your corner is to possess the strength…

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