TIFF21 REVIEW: Flee [2021]

This is where my story begins. Documentarian Jonas Poher Rasmussen went to a lot of trouble to keep his friend and subject of Flee a secret. It’s with good reason too since the story divulged is one that could feasibly send him back to Afghanistan despite living the majority of his life in his adopted country of Denmark. More than just using a pseudonym (Amin Nawabi), however, the interviews also become rotoscope animation as a means of amplifying anonymity. There are obviously still risks involved from the simple act of…

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TIFF21 REVIEW: Du som er i himlen [As in Heaven] [2022]

Dreams should not be taken lightly. Lise (Flora Ofelia Hofmann Lindahl) couldn’t be happier now that she knows her mother’s (Ida Cæcilie Rasmussen‘s Anna) determination has successfully overcome her father’s (Thure Lindhardt‘s Anders) objections about sending her to school. It’s the late 1800s after all. A big reason why a farming family such as theirs has so many children is to work the land. Sending off the eldest at fourteen isn’t therefore conducive to their home’s machinery—especially since Anders has no qualms with leaving the daily chores to his sister,…

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REVIEW: De forbandede år [Into the Darkness] [2020]

So what happens next? The irony of neutrality is that you must have a formidable army to sustain it. It’s therefore cute to watch as the aristocracy looks aghast when a foe such as Adolph Hitler comes knocking because they thought they were safe. Talk about privilege and naiveté. The people attending Karl Skov’s (Jesper Christensen) anniversary party are actually incredulous when German planes drop leaflets onto their heads. They wonder how their king could just surrender as though they ever stood a chance once Hitler began moving west and…

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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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