Flame & Citron (2008)
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The performances are universally strong and there is a real chemistry between the two central characters; Mads Mikkelsens' quirky Citronen, a twitching, sweaty bundle of amphetamine-fuelled nervous energy and his sole ally, the flame-haired, but relatively cool-headed Flammen (Thure Lindhardt).
This is a war film - but the war we experience here has a dreamlike, claustrophobic quality. This is a world of lies, paranoia and spiralling violence which threatens to erode our heroes moral certainty and destroy their sanity.
A buddy movie with echoes of "Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid" (without the jokes); "Bonnie & Clyde" (but with swastikas). There's even a little "Naked Lunch" thrown into the mix.
The first film I've seen by director Madsen has left me intrigued, impressed and hungry for more. Recommended 8.5/10
The title of the film comes from nicknames given to two famous resistance fighters who specialized in assassinations--mostly of Danish collaborators but also, occasionally, Nazis. What made this all so interesting is that after a while, it really became uncertain whether the two were actually now killing the good guys instead of the bad. Who was an informer and who really deserved to die was tough for the audience to figure out--and it was also quite difficult for Flame and Citron. I liked this vague aspect of the film--as war isn't always 100% cut and dry.
Overall, I have no negative comments about the film. It was exceptionally well made but unfortunately practically none of my fellow Americans will ever see the film, as sadly, most feel that it's too much trouble reading subtitles and would rather see a remake of "Friday 13th part 178"!! As for me, it just confirmed that the Danes have made some exciting films--such as "The Celebration" and "Babette's Feast"--and the Danish-Swedish co-production "Evil".
In addition to the outstanding performances of Lindhardt and Mikkelsen, there are excellent performances by Christian Berkel as Hoffman, leader of the Gestapo, Stine Stengade as the puzzling spy/counterspy/ love interest Ketty Selmer, and a cast of bit players that remain in mind's eye long after the film is over. Though produced as an epic (and the film is a very very long 130 minutes!) the interaction between the lead characters is clearly defined and they come across as credible resistance fighters whose plight is always one of duress and fear.
As in all stories about war that are honest, there is no clear line between right and wrong, between survival and heroism, and it is to Madsen's credit that he keeps us in the shadows with every encounter. War is war and it alters everyone who is touched by it.
First of all, the acting. Thure Lindhardt and Mads Mikkelsen manages to make their parts more natural than I've seen in years. And for once they're not talking with a rhythmic, obvious-acting kind of tone but a real and honest voice. And after watching this one I truly understand why they call Thure The Man With The Thousand Faces.
As for the directing, it is award-winning stuff. Ill be surprised if it doesn't win several prizes and important ones too.
So if you read this, which I assume you do, go watch Flammen og Citronen. I can promise you intensity, honesty, love, bravery, hate, jokes and friendship all-in-one. This movies doesn't have those cheesy, dumb, ridiculous scenes but gives you something honest and pure.
I would recommend this for movie of the year so far, if I have the power to do so. I love this movie and I admire it even more. 9/10
So how does it all go? Well, it's not an easy one to follow. Many a time not sure what to make of the storyline if we were to really learn much. The whole realpolitik aspect of the piece never seems to resolve and with so many sides in this film, it's hard to keep up. In fairness, that was likely the main point showing the true difficulty of war, as each group seems to play off of each other for their own ends, whatever they may be. This is a weakness overall, and with its length quite tiresome.
Acting in general is faultless and beautiful shots of the Scandanavian countryside plus panoramic views of the cities are great on the eye, but some bad camera work at times is just really amateurish and spoils things.
Overall a good film that is interesting and a new-ish angle for WW2 films. Some very good points and most will like it, but not as special as it possibly could have been.
An intensely intense film. It has great intentions, and the protagonists go around shooting Danish Nazi types in the head, which was probably a pretty good things to do during the war, at least in movie terms. It's gritty and moody, it has tension and good music and great dramatic filming (the light and the camera-work are both very clean and yet provocative).
But this cinematic prowess gets in the way of the movie a little, and the plot is slow enough that you begin to watch the surfaces of things as you go. In fact, some of the scenes (eating around large tables, meeting in broad, gloomy, almost beautiful basements) are just too pretty to support the ugly events at hand. Or so it seems. It's a vivid film, and unique, and it is a must see for World War II film buffs, just because it's so honest and so different. There are not that many Danish films about the war to start with, compared to British and American (and German) efforts.
This one is very bloody, and ruthless in both its actions and in the telling of them. Kudos for that, but warnings, too. As pretty as the filming is, it isn't always easy to watch. But that's part of the point, getting to what rises above the mere action--is it okay to kill bad people without a trial, without warning, without knowing even if they are bad at all. What is okay in war? What do we come to justify later, or at the time?
It is a movie fit for the big screen, it is delicious to watch in every way, and i give it a big 10, love the twist about the front figures versus their leaders pulling strings in the back. Thure Lindhardt is very convincing as the flame, he matches the picture i have of him since i first read about Flammen. Mads Mikkelsen does a good job, and Stine Stengade is lovely. Peter Mygind is often casted as a comic figure, nice to see him in a more semi dark role.
What makes this a very good movie and worth to watch, is the character of Thure Lindhardt as narrator and the flame, who does a sublime job doing the whole movie. The rest of the actors also makes this a very believable movie.
How close the storyline is to the real one, I do not know, but I was entertained and captured for the entire length of the movie, never once did I think ooh come on, move this along, the flow and the feel is just great.
This is one to watch, good story, better Scenografi and sublime acting.
With 'Flame and Citron', a Danish film, I've made notable exception. Everything felt good, right from the steel gray sky on down: the script, props, costumes, even the major 'watering' holes.
The plot moved forward almost as fast as that sordid period lasted in Denmark. The actors especially those who portrayed the two main characters were plausible. Even the Nazi occupiers gave good support though as fierce opposition; better make that as brutal suppressors of the Danish 'resistance'.
One prominent Nazi, Herr Hoffman, even as the Copenhagen SS chief at times appeared almost, well, human. Maybe that wasn't the director's intent. However, from where I sat, that was the impression Hoffman gave.
On the other hand, the wiry rimmed Gestapo chief's many speeches/soliloquies added little to the plot's progression. Often Hoffman's own words revealed his dark nature. That was expected given who is employers were, no?
Not well versed in Danish history, especially concerning that turbulent WW II period, my instincts scream that this film 'told the truth'. And as macabre as many scenes were, my sympathies still lay with the Danes. My guess is the period's experts would share my opinion.
Even against daunting odds, brave little Denmark put up a dogged, albeit costly fight. The Big Nazi War Machine though won, (I think); that's no surprise. No doubt that the two main protagonists, Flame and Citron, as the Resistance's crack enforcers played a most pivotal even momentum changing role.
And the film's producers/director gave much credence to that perspective, right to the sad end. My wish is that more films of this genre were produced in the same excellent 9mm caliber.
Alas, in that same regard, there's a conspicuous absence of these true 'gems' in the cinema trade. Moreover, Hollywood studios could learn much from the Danish film industry.
And you can take that to the Krone bank.
BBC4 is something of an exception. Following "The Killing" and "Borgen" that channel is currently having a love-affair with all things Danish, and it was there that I recently caught "Flame & Citron". It is said to be one of the most expensive Danish language movies ever, although the budget was only around six million pounds, peanuts by Hollywood standards. (Most Hollywood producers these days would pay out considerably more than that figure to meet the salary demands of just one of their film's stars). It is loosely based on actual events and deals with the Danish resistance movement during the latter part of World War II. The title refers to the code names of two members of the Holger Danske resistance group, Bent Faurschou-Hviid (known as Flame because of his red hair) and Jørgen Haagen Schmith (known as Citron, Danish for lemon, because he once worked for the Citroen car company).
The film opens in 1943 when the tide of war is starting to turn against Germany, Hitherto the Resistance has largely confined itself to sabotage and assassinations of Danish collaborators. Flame and Citron now receive instructions from their controller, Aksel Winther, to pursue a campaign of attacks against the Nazi occupiers themselves, something the Resistance has previously avoided.
Films about European Resistance movements made during the war or in the years immediately following it invariably had a simple moral structure. (I cannot recall any such movies actually set in Denmark, but there were numerous examples about other occupied countries, such as "The Day Will Dawn" and "The Heroes of Telemark", both about Norway, "One of Our Aircraft is Missing" about the Netherlands and "The Guns of Navarone" about Greece). The Resistance fighters are invariably shown as unambiguously heroic, as are their British or American allies, the Germans are unambiguously evil, and the local collaborators totally despicable. The film generally ends with our heroes having successfully performed some gallant feat of arms which will render invaluable assistance to the Allied war effort.
"Flame and Citron" is quite different. Despite its World War Two setting, it bears more resemblance to a modern spy movie or to a neo- noir crime drama than a traditional "heroic Resistance" film. One might call it, on the analogy of the revisionist Western, a revisionist Resistance drama. There are no British or American commandos on hand to lend assistance. The attacks which Bent and Jørgen carry out are only of doubtful value to the overall Allied cause. Most importantly, the moral boundaries are more blurred. Flame and Citron suffer pangs of conscience over the killings they carry out and never know whom they can trust. Is Winther in league with the Germans, or is he in fact pursuing his own personal agenda by settling private scores? Is Ketty, the glamorous woman with whom Flame falls in love, actually a double agent? Will the attacks on the Germans contribute to the liberation of Denmark, or will they simply provoke German reprisals against Danish civilians? Are the Germans in fact all villains? One high-ranking German officer claims to be part of his country's own anti-Nazi movement, and even if he is lying this claim does at least draw attention to the fact that by no means all Germans were pro-Hitler.
The atmosphere of the film is, despite occasional action sequences, subdued, with a muted colour scheme, symbolic of the dark shadows which Nazi rule had cast over occupied Europe. Although it does, I think, finally reach the conclusion that the Resistance effort was worthwhile in that the self-sacrifice involved played a vital role in enabling Denmark to preserve its sense of national honour, it does at least dramatise some of the moral dilemmas involved in active resistance to a brutal occupying force. Modern dramas from continental Europe about the war are not particularly common, but this is one well worth watching. 7/10
I liked the fact that it was based on true events. This makes it possible to look at the movie from a more realistic point of view. Flame and Citron encourages one to question life and reason in general from a realistic view rather than question the movie it's self. This all in accordance with war time events of course, and resistance fighters.
I looked into the history behind the movie and it's neat to know that they have statues built in Denmark to commemorate these brave underground soldiers.
Denmark was invaded in 1940 by Germany. A lot of Danish citizens collaborated with the invaders, shamelessly. The resistance movement, recruited loyal men and women to fight the odious Nazi force that settled in their country against their best wishes. It was not an easy task to do, but among the fighters that came to oppose the Germans were Bent Faurschou-Hviid, whose war name was Flame, named so because of his bright red hair, and the taciturn Jorgen Haagen Schmidt, known as Citron, his comrade in arms.
The two friends were recruited to be trigger men for the elimination of their fellow Danish who were collaborating openly with the enemy, as well as the hated Nazis themselves. It proved to be quite a job to be able to fool the Gestapo, that controlled everything in the country. Complicating matters, Flame falls for Ketty Selmer, a woman that was a double spy. Flame and Citron gave the enemy a run for their money in spite of the odds against the success of their enterprise.
The film has a dark look that was enhanced by the camera work of Jorgen Johansson. The Copenhagen of that period is shown in muted colors as befitting the terrible times the country was living under the Nazi rule. The strength of the film lies in what director Madsen was able to create and the ensemble work he got from the cast.
One must single out the two principals, Thure Lindhardt, and Mads Mikklesen, who are seen as Flame and Citron, respectively. The two men give a credible account of what their characters were going through at the time where the action takes place. Both actors compliment one another in ways that one cannot think of others being cast in their roles. Equally good is Stine Stengade, who plays Ketty Selmer, the enigmatic woman who inspired a passion in Flame. The rest of the supporting players made an impression with us.
Ole Christian Madsen shows talent to spare in this exciting retelling of a WWII episode.
A good handful of continuity problems and a small dash of out-of-time props made me score this one at 6/10 rather than higher. I don't like people leaning forwards when I see then from one angle and leaning back when I see them from the other angle, at least not when they do it consistently between each angle change. I think it's strange for people to wash blood off their hands when the blood is still there afterwards, and then gone again seconds later. I don't think they had laser printed contracts back then. And I thought glass-based cyanide capsules would look a tad different than the gel-based medicine we use today.
But I'm a movie geek; my wife didn't even notice the stuff I rant about above. All in all, the movie is absolutely worth watching! All central actors give a really, really good performance. And since the story is, to my knowledge, deeply rooted in real events, it makes it even more exciting.
If you like this movie, you will probably also like the Norwegian (I'm a Norwegian) "Max Manus" (7/10 from me), based on books written by one of Norway's most well known saboteurs from WWII. (His name is Max Manus, and his two books from 1945/46 are absolutely worth a read.)
Was Denmark the only country in occupied Europe where assassinations weren't followed by swift and brutal reprisals? There is no mention of them until a small example later in the film. The strange example of throwing a grenade into a tram sounds very untypical as an act of reprisal.
Was Denmark the only country in occupied Europe where there weren't regular identity checks from the police and Gestapo? We only see two. The rest of the time these two people are allowed to travel around the city wherever they like. Even when the police arrive at the café where they've just had a gun battle and drive off in sight of the arriving police, but nobody stops them or follows them So they went around assassinating whoever they liked, even though most of them turned out to be innocent, and they still got rewarded with medals? Citron seemed to be surviving on pills, Flame refused to dye his trade-mark red hair. Did they want to be caught? With some decent direction and a story that made us care about, or even be interested in a few more of the characters, this could have been a good film - but sadly, it isn't
Beautiful war film is at times haunting and heart breaking. It has sequences that turn your stomach at the prospect of being in a similar situation. It has the look and feel of an old style Hollywood film mixed with the brutality of todays films. The film reminded me of the look of Ang Lee's Lust Caution which had an unbeatable sense of place and time and style. Its also a little brother to Melville's heart rending masterpiece Army of Shadows. Wonderfully acted this is a film where you really like the characters and feel that even the small parts have a sense of weight.
As good as the film is, the film never quite achieves the greatness the film seems destined for in the early going. As much as I like the feel of the film, there are times when it seems a bit too Hollywood. The femme fatale story line is too cliché for a film that for the most part not cliché. There are also some odd moments that seems to speak more of being great on screen rather than true to the events as depicted in the film (in particular the end of two of the characters). The little bits don't destroy the film they just take what starts as a great film and make it something thats in the end very good.
I recommend it. Between 7 and 8 out of 10 (I saw this on IFC in Theater's pay per view service and kind of regret doing so. The look of the film is so good that I kind of wished I had seen this on a truly big screen.)