Category Archives: Denmark Films

Nymphomaniac: Vol 1 性上癮 (2014) – Denmark / France / Germany

Review by: Andrew Chan FCCA AACTA FIPRESCI
Review Date: 20th March 2014

Directed by: Lars von Trier
Starring: Charlotte Gainsbourg, Stellan Skarsgård, Stacy Martin, Shia LaBeouf, Christian Slater, Jamie Bell, Uma Thurman, Willem Dafoe

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What’s so brilliant about “Nymphomaniac: Volume 1” is the manner the director Lars von Trier throws one shock after another to the awaiting and demanding audience. We have grown to expect the unexpected and by challenging the genre conventions, gender stereotypes and society norms and values, Lars have successfully created a new beginning and a new chapter. This is precisely what makes the film all the more entertaining and though-provoking at the same time.

Sex is an important part of the film and undeniably it is rather expressive, but when it adds up to show the character played by both the brilliant Stacy Martin and later Charlotte Gainsbourg are trying to build. Martin in particular shows an edge and youthful selfishness that is both daring and empty. It is the emptiness and loneliness that successfully translate to the audience as no amount of intimacy can overcome her internal and self-issues.

The fact that the film tries to channels and reference numerous work of literature, Bach, methods and psychology of fishing makes us reflect upon ourselves. It is this powerful notion that Lars is so in-depth about that there is easily a notion, a moment or an instance where the audience can see themselves in the mirror. Uma Thurman is simply wonderful in the twisting revenge dialogue at her husband’s cheating as she chews the screen with a level of reality.

All in all, “Nymphomaniac: Volume 1” is simply a film that hooks you and gather your utmost attention. It is haunting that this is only the easy part as the trailer for Volume 2 suggests a much wild and darker times ahead. I wouldn’t say that this is just a daring film, but it is definitely a cynical one. The ending split scenes of three different kinds of love is especially interesting and when Martin screams out that “she doesn’t feel any-more”, Lars smartly weaves open a clever cliff hanger. This is thoroughly engaging film that explores the darker and often hidden form of humanity. It is difficult to rate this film as of now, as everyone is still waiting for what lies ahead. Well at the very least, I am seduced. (Neo 2014)

I rated it 8/10

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The Hunt / Jagten / 捕猎 / 誣網 (2012) – Denmark

Review by: Andrew Chan FCCA AACTA
Review Date: 7th March 2013
In cinemas Hong Kong from 16th March 2013

Directed by: Thomas Vinterberg
Starring: Mads Mikkelsen, Thomas Bo Larsen, Lasse Fogelstrøm, Annika Wedderkopp

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This is a thought-provoking film that talks deeper issues in the human condition and revokes the memories of the witch-hunt days, the McCarthy era and the Communist regime. A wise person once said, “lie will become the truth once it is told many times, no matter how unbelievable the circumstances may be.” Such is the premise that Danish director Thomas Vinterberg’s “The Hunt” flirt and touches upon the deepest fear in humanity, issues of trust and effects of large masses of hysteria. 2012 has been a fantastic year of Danish films on international scale and charismatic lead actor Mads Mikkelsen, winning the Cannes Film Festival coveted Best Actor actor for “The Hunt” and gaining international recognition through the Oscar nominated “A Royal Affair”. This a powerful film and hallowing tale on how a simple innocent lie by a child claiming that her teacher molested her became a widespread hysteria and how it can destroy people, career and life.

Mads Mikkelsen is simply outstanding as the victim of being wrongly accused of molesting a child in a country town where everyone knows everybody. Despite being acquitted of his crimes, the town people grew absolute hatred of the man and seemingly destroyed the man’s life, career, relationships, son, friends and pet (literally). Mikkelsen is successful in never disclosing too much about himself and there is a quiet determination about him that makes the film works like thriller. He never admits to the crime, nor truly denies it, thus keeping the audience at the edge of the seat, even though, deep down, we can feel the angst and pride of the man, trying to regain his reputation against all odds. This is perhaps a direct commentary on the effects on people and how lies can spread like Chinese whisper to an unprecedented level of hysteria. What makes the film so engaging is that Mikkelsen is easily a character the audience want to root for as every difficult of his road redemption is met with public disgrace. It is something that can happen to anyone and the issue could have been anything and as a result, the film plays on this exact fear within the audience’s mind and succeeds. Thomas Bo Larsen provides excellent support as the father of apparently molested child and best friend of the accused. He is given a difficult role as he is torn in the midst of believing his best friend and the protection of his family. The reconciling scene near the end from the moment Mikkelsen’s deadpan stare into Bo Larse’s eyes, words need not be spoken.

Danish director Thomas Vinterberg does not try to exaggerate the situation, not does he resort to melodramatic techniques, but rather he choose to show the events and happens and how Mikkelsen’s deals with such an incident. This could easily have been a witch-hunt or even a regular in the McCarthy era, but in the end, it is about the accused becoming the victim and how easily a community of people can draw to conclusions. It also put questions in society onto how much we should trust a child’s words and what if they are telling the truth. It is a important issue within society, human nature and also the consequences of believing and non-believing can be absolutely frightening. As a result, people choose to believe what they fear the most in order to feel comfort within themselves. Vinterberg draws strongly on those fears and what we get is “The Hunt”.

All in all, “The Hunt” is an outstanding film in the depiction of a relevant concern and the flow of events and aftermath of such an incident. Molesting a child is a dead serious issue and absolutely disgusting to imagine and like witch-craft back in the days, it is precisely condemned and frown upon by members of community. “The Hunt” simply works because it is thoroughly engaging and the audience are kept in the closet as the story unfolds itself with one surprise after another. It is an effectively paced film that makes the most of Mikkelsen’s character acting, the relationship between father and son and the interactions within the community of people. There are films that entertain and there films that informs the audience about a situation and a human condition and the latest Danish extravagant is both entertaining and informative. (Neo 2013)

I rated it 9/10

A Royal Affair / En kongelig affære (2012) – Denmark

Review by: Andrew Chan FCCA AACTA
Review Date: 13 June 2012
DVD Review: 9 November 2012
Released by Madman Entertainment on DVD and Blu-Ray

Mikkel Boe Følsgaard as the mad King of Denmark, may not have been given the title role, but he oozes with scene stealing presence in almost every scene he appears. In saying that Danish historical drama “A Royal Affair” is purely carried by Mikkel is by no means an understatement. In fact, the film is rather disappointing with all characters rather blend and uninspiring, apart from the King. Director Nikolaj Arcel (writer of “The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo”) is clearly a much better script writer than at bringing the picture to life. “A Royal Affair” could have been something enormous, but rather it all seemed too much like clichés, too many boredom moments and some rather predictable acting from Mads Mikkelsen as the Royal doctor. I am by no means an expert in Danish cinema, but despite looking wonderfully detail in its depiction of 1700s life, the film lacks a vital ingredient of having a heart. There is no doubt that “Royal” is not a bad film and will never be, but one cannot stop wondering what could’ve been and once again the case of a missed opportunity.

As mentioned earlier, Mikkel Boe Folsgaard steals the show from far more acclaimed Mikkelsen (“Casino Royale”‘s fame) and the Queen played by rising Swedish star Alicia Vikander. Mikkel is able to bring his mad character to life and more importantly a human naturalistic touch to it as well. It is a vital stranglehold that the film ultimately fails miserably at. In saying so, Mads Mikkelsen is extremely disappointing in a role that requires so much more. His stoic outlook and appearance certainly did not help the cause, but what really led him down is his inability to show the conflict between love, power and ideals that his character and the audience needed from him. Although it must be noted that despite the age difference, there is an underlying chemistry between him and Alicia Vikander. Moving on to Vikander, there is no question of her pretty face, but despite a promising start, she is never sure of the character that she is trying so hard to portray. At the end, the audience does not feel for either Vikander and Mikkelsen and while both actors should be blamed, a burden should be attributed to the director Arcel, by not being able to exploit the most at his disposals.

“A Royal Affair” is really a historical film about a time in the late 1700s when people are starting to challenge the status quo, the introduction of science, questioning of the Church and all of these leading to the times of being in the middle of the age of enlightenment. The famous Royal doctor Johan Struensee is being portrayed as a simple and straightforward idealist guy that bedded a Queen, but rather he is an interesting character that is driven with passion and ideal to change the world and in the midst of things got stuck in an affair with the Queen. However, he is nothing, but a simple character, as he is torn between assuming more and more power as well as his personal drive for ideals. Here, all we see is a simple black and white character where by the end of the film, he seemed more like a villain than a complicated yet flawed character he should have been.

All in all, “A Royal Affair” is really a missed opportunity. Although it must be admitted, that the screenplay and the best actor award seems thoroughly deserving in winning the Berlin Film Festival awards, but the film precisely fails to deliver in every other category. The film is also a tact too slow in the beginning and lacks tension even in the rather frequent sexual Royal affair. Luckily, the film is saved by the wonderful Mikkel Boe Følsgaard whose character despite being the least normal of the trio, stand heads and shoulders above the rest of the crowd. Perhaps the film-maker was right to focus on the pair of scandalous lovers, after all the film name is titled after it. Still, this could easily be a far better film, far better acted and far more deep and meaning. Perhaps, I am being a tact too harsh, but the result of “A Royal Affair” is not that it is a bad film, but rather it is far too average, far too normal and far too predictable to be involving and affecting. I should be crying by the end of the film, but instead, I almost felt nothing. Beautiful to look at, but ultimately I felt nothing…

I rate it 6/10

Special Features:
Interviews with director Nicolaj Arcel and stars Mads Mikkelsen and Alicia Vikander
Picture gallery with character biographies
Family tree, illustrating the links between the Danish and British royal families
Theatrical trailer