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Ronja Mannov Olesen,
Helene Reingaard Neumann
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DEAR WENDY is a story about the young loner Dick who lives in the poor mining town of Estherslope. When he happens upon a small handgun one day, he finds himself strangely drawn to it, despite his fervent pacifist views. Together with his newfound partner he soon convinces the other young outcasts in the town to join him in a secret club he calls The Dandies. A club based on the principals of pacifism and guns. Despite their firm belief in the most important Dandy rule of all - never draw your weapons - they soon find themselves in a predicament where they realise that rules are made to be broken. Written by
The Regulations are, that the most important thing for a Dandy is never to show off his partner, whatever the provocation. We carry them as moral supports. And that's the most important thing. They may be carried, but never brandished. That would be the worst thing of all.
[contiunes as voice-over narrative]
Not one of us were in doubt about the most important thing of all. The reason why our partners could only be fired in the darkness of the old mine and could never be exposed to full light ...
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"Dear Wendy" comes from the talents that brought us "Festen" and "It's All About Love" (both written and directed by Thomas Vinteberg), "Dogville," "Dancer in the Dark" and "Breaking the Waves" (written and directed by Lars Von Trier). They have collaborated on Dear Wendy, with Vinteberg at the helm and penned by Trier.
This is my favorite kind of movie; it begins with a "what if..." premise, which the storytellers follow with relentless commitment. In this case, the premise is "what if some misfit kids fell in love with their guns." Well, they'd give them names, they'd practice shooting and have a secret clubhouse, they'd study the famous gun-toting heroes of old, and the relationship they have with their weapons would become a mirror for their relationships with the world. All of which are pursued beautifully in the film.
Quite a few American movie critics read this film as a critique of American society, and they resent a European making a film about small-town America. An oft-vented complaint is that Trier has no business criticizing a country which he's never actually visited. I don't think, however, that this is ultimately a film about guns; the relationship these kids have with their guns is simply a unique window through which the filmmakers have chosen to show us the rich inner lives of the protagonists. They could have used a dysfunctional family (Festen), or movie musicals (Dancer In The Dark) or a tolling church bell (Breaking The Waves) to show us that world - but in this case it's guns.
Within the limits of the film medium - 10,000 words of dialog and around 140,000 frames of film - the choices of the filmmaker often revolve about what to leave OUT rather than what to put IN. This is a film that could be used as a textbook for economists. The script is tight - not a word out of place, although the narration feels conversational and casual. A film about child misfits and their guns could easily follow thematic red herrings all over the place in pursuit of social commentary, but "Dear Wendy" is utterly restrained - in spite of the "loaded" subject matter. On the cutting room floor are social commentary, cliché, and many of the cinematic crutches which Trier and Vinterberg rejected in their Dogme 95 days.
Any film lover who cares to see a film utterly committed to its premise, a film made with economy and efficiency, a film full of sweet irony, a film of deceptive simplicity, would do well to check out "Dear Wendy."
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