Saturday, May 21, 2011

In a Better World (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

In a Better World

    Suzanne Bier's Academy Award-winning film "In a Better World" is a meditation on friendship, violence and the violence of friendship. Although it is a film of emotions, the importance of setting should not be overlooked. Its crystal clear yet painterly cinematography rivals the work of Tanguy, Magritte or even a sun-stroked Vermeer. It is a visual interpretation of the kind of cultural eeriness seen in the work of Paul Bowles: How far should anger go? And what is the price of friendship?
    The film stars Mikael Persbrandt as Anton, a Swedish doctor who deals with healing near- death injuries in Sudan. He stitches up one bleeding stomach after another. Through it all, Anton is affable and goodnatured.
The doctor's son (Markus Rygaard) is plagued by violent bullies. One day, a seemingly handsome and pleasant boy, Christian (William Johnk Nielsen) sticks up for the quiet boy. But this is no feel-good "Karate Kid". All is not well. When the bully doesn't give up, Christian follows him to the restroom and beats him to a pulp with a tiny terror intensity that only little Damien would enjoy. There is bashing and blood with a pump and a knife. All three troubled dears are brought into the school office and they are let go after questioning. Christian and the victimized boy are friends for life.
    Then, on a seaside outing, the doctor is assaulted in front of his kids for no explicable reason by an ape like xenophobic Lars (Kim Bodnia). The doctor, wanting to show that defiance is stronger than fear, confronts Lars at his garage. Lars resumes the beating, but the doctor does not retreat.
Christian becomes incensed and driven and begins to hatch a plan of revenge that becomes psychotic in its solitude and determination. He cannot leave an unjust moment, unadjusted, even in violence. Christian, for several days becomes a real-life tiny terrorist--a little Damien without the supernatural pageantry, an Edward Gorey illustration without the inky punch-line. Christian's face is ashen and shadowed. The boy means business, consumed by his mother's unfair death from cancer and a father distant with euphemisms. The grown boy is fed up.
    Rather than submerge into a soap opera mentality, the film retains its objective lens. This is life as is. Within the square houses of Denmark, there is a jungle and it is the human heart. Tortured souls do not fit squarely inside Ikea furniture. The only eye we are under is a glaring one of blue--the empty sky.
    The Danish word for the film is Haevnen. Although this translates into "The Revenge", yet I can't help thinking that the word is similar to the English Heaven. The only heaven that there is, I believe, is in the immediate earthly moment as we live out each day, either through acceptance of our human frailties or anger.
This film, coupled with a pair of human eyes, will offer that choice.

Write Ian at

No comments: