1 item from 2002
In his first feature since the forgettable 1998 Miramax film "Nightwatch" -- an English-language remake of his 1994 debut -- Danish director Ole Bornedal tries to reinvent the period film, adapting a popular 1988 novel by Herbjorg Wassmo in a lush, expensive, five-country co-production that features one of the most unpleasant-to-be-with heroines in recent memory.
Filmed in English, visually never a bore, but so relentlessly grim in its tone and story line that it becomes ludicrous, "I Am Dina" could be called "I Am Destruction and Death".
Unspooling in the official competition, "Dina" is very robust filmmaking and boasts a cast that includes Gerard Depardieu, Christopher Eccleston and many veterans, but it's unlikely to garner attention outside Europe. Most problematic is Bornedal's misguided attempt to sustain a one-note tone of emotional instability for two hours. No one is given more than a moment's relief in the film from the madness of the lead character.
Starring Maria Bonnevie ("The 13th Warrior") in an energetic but ultimately cliched performance of gaping mouth and crazy eyes, "Dina" opens with the title character as a happy 8-year-old living in Northern Norway during the 1860s.
Mere moments go by before she causes an accident and her mother is hideously killed by a tipped-over vat of boiling lye. Dina's father (Bjorn Floberg) blames the child, and she's forever a haunted being, compensating for the stigma of accidental homicide by abusing almost every man, woman and child who crosses her path.
Indeed, Dina grows up playing the cello, riding horses and head-butting Dad when he tries to impose his will. Apparently a woman of WNBA proportions in the book, Bonnevie is believable throwing punches and kneeing the testicles of her hapless beaus, but these displays of strength -- accompanied by animalistic roars -- are more monstrous than admirable. Married off to a local businessman (Depardieu) who doesn't know what he's in for, Dina finds something she likes in sex -- with her on top and in control, of course.
While her husband is away, she carries on with childhood friend Tomas (Hans Matheson). She's able to conjure her mother's ghost and during a trip to town has a strange connection with a man in the process of being hanged. It's this scene that introduces her to the eventual love of her life, Russian anarchist Leo (Eccleston), though it's just him seeing her from a distance.
Destruction and death ensue.
Depardieu dies horribly from a leg injury. Tomas gets more random visits for meaningless copulation. Niels (Mads Mikkelsen), a stepson of Depardieu's character, is discovered to be an embezzler and drunkenly rapes the wet nurse (Kate Haride) brought in to care for the baby (by Tomas) that Dina could care less about. In the final half-hour, as the ghosts accumulate, Niels is crushed by fate and hangs himself, while Dina's little boy goes flying out of a small sailing boat in stormy weather.
"Dina" is just too much of a bad thing, even when it tries to come in for a happy landing. The production design, costumes and creepy ghost imagery show Bornedal is a director not afraid to spice up the usually restrained 19th-century milieu of family sagas. He's seemingly got no clue that watching this movie to the bitter end offers no rewards or insight into humanity, just cheap thrills.
I AM DINA
Northern Lights, Nordisk Film
Director: Ole Bornedal
Screenwriters: Jonas Cornell, Ole Bornedal
Based on the novel by: Herbjorg Wassmo
Producers: Per Holst, Axel Helgeland
Director of photography: Dan Laustsen
Production designers: Steffen Aarfing, Marie i Dali
Editors: Thomas Krag, Molly Malene Steensgaard
Music: Marco Beltrami
Costume designer: Dominique Borg
Dina: Maria Bonnevie
Jacob: Gerard Depardieu
Leo Zukowskij: Christopher Eccleston
Dina's Father: Bjorn Floberg
Tomas: Hans Matheson
Niels: Mads Mikkelsen
Gertrude: Pernilla August
Running time -- 122 minutes
No MPAA rating
1 item from 2002
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