The Substitute (2007) Poster

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Our story ends with a kiss.
lastliberal25 April 2009
One might be ready to believe a film about Middle School children to be a Ghost House movie. But, this isn't about Middle School children, it is about the substitute teacher in the 6th grade class.

The students know right away that something isn't right, but it isn't until later that they discover just what is wrong. Of course, their parents don't believe them, and it is up to the kids, one in particular, Carl (Jonas Wandschneider), to save the others. Of course, Carl is the least likely student to save the day as he lost his mother in a car accident and has not gotten past it.

The film has first rate acting by Paprika Steen as the substitute teacher, outstanding cinematography, lots of black humor, a slam on psychology and parents who don't trust in their children, and some really fascinating special effects.

I am really impressed with Ole Bornedal, who wrote and directed this film and look forward to his new films.
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"Say goodbye to your last day on earth."
demonictaco17 June 2007
Warning: Spoilers
When I first saw the trailer for this film, I knew it was something I had to watch. I can't remember any Danish sci-fi movies off the top of my head, and I knew that a director like Bornedal would never just tack on such a genre for no reason. It also seemed wonderfully crazy, and Danish black humour does work very well on film. When you actually go see the film, you realise that the fantastic elements of the story are only cosmetic, and that the film isn't about aliens with strange powers, but rather about what our society is changing into.

The film's acting is spot on; the kids have been cast very well, their characters seeming genuine. The main character, Carl, is particularly well portrayed, and his emotions all seem perfectly sincere and authentic. You can't put a finger on the acting of any of the supporting roles either; Ulrich Thomsen does a very effective father, and Ulf Pilgaard seems delightfully mechanical in his portrayal of the "education minister". But in the end, with all due respect to all the other actors, Paprika Steen really outshines everyone else. She is frighteningly effective in her role as Ulla Harms, the Substitute. Constantly condescending towards the students in an effort to turn them into the best children possible, so they can compete in Paris with other students from various parts of Europe, Ulla Harms is a fantastic villain. The way she doesn't show any remorse at all towards the students she insults, the way she'll stop at nothing in her quest to discover what love is (which she, of course, tries to do in totally psychopathic manner).

One of the few flaws the movie has is that it doesn't really flesh out certain characters who, while not actually very important to the plot, still get a lot of screen time and thus should be made more clear than they were. This makes some of the characters seem a bit shallow. The important characters are dealt with as they should, though, so it's not a very big problem.

Another thing I can complain about is the ending. The final scene starts out very calmly, with a bit of narration from what I think is Ole Bornedal himself, and then suddenly explodes into a loud and very energetic series of credits. It didn't really fit in, and it seemed fairly pointless.

All in all, the Substitute is a very entertaining movie; part social commentary, part black comedy, part horror. With stunning performances by virtually all the actors and a very effective script, the Substitute delivered everything I thought it would and much, much more. I can recommend it to all fans of Danish film-making.
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A smart kid sci-fi
siderite26 July 2009
If this would have been an American movie, the monster would have been silly, the parents understandable in their gullibility and the kids more concerned with their social standing. Also, anything scary would have probably been removed and the film would have been a Disney production.

Well, they do things differently in Denmark, so they have some smart kids, with a complex relationship dynamic, completely ignorant parents that only believe what suits them best (especially when it comes to their children fantasies) and the monster is both fairly benign, totally scary and absolutely alien.

The film is thus suitable for both parents and children, although I would call it more a family film with horrorish specks, and even if the whole "planet without love" thing was too corny and not very related to the rest of the film, the movie is watchable and enjoyable. At least I liked it.
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A Great Movie for Adults and Children
Claudio Carvalho17 October 2009
When an alien comes from another planet to learn the meaning of love on Earth, it possesses the body of Ulla Harms (Paprika Steen), who is the wife of an owner of a poultry farm in Denmark. Meanwhile, the boy Carl (Jonas Wandschneider) grieves the loss of his mother, who died in a car crash, and is outcast in his school. His father Jesper Osböll (Ulrich Thomsen) wrote a bestseller about the power of love and also grieves the loss of his beloved wife. When the teacher of Carl has a health problem with salmonella, Ulla is assigned as the substitute teacher for his class. Sooner Carl and his friends discovers that Ulla is a monster from outer space, but their parents do not trust them and believe the children are fantasizing

"Vikaren" (a.k.a. "The Substitute") is a great movie for adults and children, with a witty story and great performances. The unknown Danish actress Paprika Steen has an awesome performance with her change of behavior, and her body and facial expressions are fantastic. She really makes this movie work and I regret only the cover of the DVD that misguides the genre to the viewers, indicating that it is a horror movie when it is actually a funny sci-fi adventure. The conclusion is weak and could be better and better. My vote is seven.

Title (Brazil): Not Available
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Paprika Goddess!
till-kleinert21 August 2008
A quite simple kids movie plot gets elevated to hilarious heights by the truly inspired casting of Paprika Steen as Ulla Harms, the substitute who dares to say and do all the things some of the more cynical teachers in this world only dream of. Steen's trademark Dogme-trained nuanced, natural acting this time only serves as a masquerade for a flat-out over-the-top monster, and you can see how much wicked fun she has switching between those two faces, proving her impressive emotional outbursts and character quirks to be nothing but a cold, calculated lie within the blink of an eye.

The other actors do fine, too, as only Danish actors can. The kids are not annoying, even if they have to scream and be cute occasionally. Our hero Carl manages to be a sympathetic if troubled young man, my only nit-picking being that he might be a bit too self-consciously handsome to really convince as the class weirdo and outsider. Also, his love story with the new girl remains a bit under-developed. But hey, they're teenagers, love comes and goes quickly at that age, I guess.

The film is a great fun romp from start to finish, never buried under the weight of its kid-friendly message, and comes highly recommended. As stated before, Paprika Steen deserves prizes and kudos for what she does. And Ole Bornedal keeps the promise he made with Nightwatch. Mainstream family cinema doesn't get much better than this.

P.S.: The only real letdown: right at the beginning of the end credits there is a high school prom dance scene that is totally out of tune with the rest of the film. It's as if the filmmakers wanted to be 'cool' with the young audience in a way the film otherwise thankfully doesn't feel the need to be.
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hamhand3 December 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Finally a film, for both children and adults, which takes the kids and their thoughts seriously, with no exception whatsoever. Great storyline, superbly executed. Several climaxes and tear-dripping ending. I have now been able to watch it several times and I keep trying to hold back the tears at the end, where the "lost" son finds his strength through the grief of loosing his mother, now hugging his father with great affection after having stopped the alien's attempt to steal the children's born compassion and empathy for each other.

Ole Bornedal shows new modernistic storytelling in a classical and highly professional level, bringing psychology and uniqueness to his own story. Scandinavian film has been small, very small, until this artist arrived with "Nattevagten/Nightwatch" and he kept on going. Thankyou for bringing and showing a great touch of the professional heart into film-making; finally. Bringing together the European psychology and the American classic storytelling.

I'm happy.
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My Review
joemamaohio13 October 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Earth is full of war...and love. That's why Ulla (Paprika Steen) has traveled to Earth from her home planet - because all she has on her planet is war.

She becomes a substitute teacher for a sixth grade class that Carl (Jonas Wandschneider) belongs to. Carl just went through the tragic death of his mother, and is seeking treatment.

Even though the children bicker amongst each other, they all come together against Ulla when she berates them and treats them like garbage. They try to tell their parents, but they don't believe them.

Then Carl discovers the truth - Ulla is an alien, and she has some plans for the children. Soon they band together to try and prevent Ulla from getting away with her evil plan.

"The Substitute" was an enjoyable film - filled with thrills, chills, and even laughter (especially the final climactic scene). It also shows the good in people - how, despite our differences, we can come together when we need it to combat a common foe. And the acting, especially from these young children, was exceptional for their age.
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Miss Harms in Love
Edgar Soberon Torchia25 July 2009
One of the best surprises I had in early 2008, when one professor brought to the film school where I work one of those "for your consideration" copies for some kind of national academy award. It was "Vikaren", a very funny, original and sometimes scary science-fiction comedy, in which an ugly alien who comes from a planet where love is unknown, assumes the figure of an attractive teacher to replace the one who, in a Danish school, has to prepare 6th grade students for a competition in Paris. If you can, do not miss this version (my favorite sequence is the first day she confronts the class!), since Hollywood has already bought the rights for a 2011 remake loaded with special effects --and although we have to give them the chance to prove they can improve something already good, you will lose watching Paprika Steen doing the real thing in Danish. It is a pity Marco Beltrami's score has not been released on any format, it is very good, and his fans consider it one of his best.
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An excellent twist of thriller and sci-fi
Argemaluco5 November 2008
Sometimes,the cultural context of a movie results very interesting and it adds points to the film itself,independently of its intrinsic quality.As examples,I can mention The Art of Devil 2,a very good horror film which does not only work because of its good moments of tension and the fact that it is unpredictable,but also because of the creepy atmosphere of Thai marshes;or These Girls,a cold and mediocre romantic comedy which wins some points for its portrait of the working-class Canadian culture.Now,I can add to that list The Substitute,an excellent combination of horror and sci-fi which is very interesting for many things,specially for portraying a culture with the exact twist of urban sophistication and rural innocence.The modest premise from this film is perfectly well developed by director and co-screenwriter Ole Bornedal,whose previous movie,I Am Dina,had been very bad for its extremely boring screenplay and the pathetic performance from the main actress.Now,Bornedal has enormously redeemed himself on both fields because,as a co-screenwriter,he built an ingenious and dynamic screenplay full of black humor and,as a director,he could get a brilliant performance from the main actress,Paprika Steen,who completely becomes on her character and never seems to be acting.Also,Bornedal drove the film at a perfect rhythm and got some excellent moments of tension,whilethe movie resulted completely unpredictable to me because there were so many ingenious twists that it was impossible to predict what could happen next.Besides,the main concept behind the movie is audacious and provocative.The only fail I found on this movie was that the brief special effects did not fit with the tone and style of the movie.But,that's a minor fail.The Substitute is a brilliant movie which I recommend with a lot of enthusiasm.I clearly took a very nice surprise with this movie.
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The Substitute. They are not all alike.
Michael O'Keefe6 November 2008
Warning: Spoilers
The Ghost House Underground presents an entry from Denmark with not a lot of special effects, but it sustains suspense and anxiety. A small-town sixth-grade class gets a substitute teacher. She is blond, long, lean and lanky with all the finesse of a Nazi interrogator. She treats the children rudely and sadistically taunts each and every one as she indulges in mind control. The children try to alert their clueless parents, but Miss Ulla(Paprika Steen)finds it too easy to manipulate them. Carl(Jonas Wandschneider)and Phillip(Nikolaj Falkenberg-Klok)convinces the class to take matters into their own hands. Upon some snooping they find reason enough to believe the substitute is from another planet.
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