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Excellent feature animation
BEYOND BEYOND I was just about to fall off the chair the other day when I watched a DVD. It was a feature animated film from 2014 directed by a Dane, Esben Toft Jacobsen, but the production team seemed to be Swedish. I did not think the level of ambition in Denmark today held out for more than the usual run of the mill stories and production design, but I was wrong, and luckily so. It was a fairy tale in which a child, this time a rabbit, cannot bear the loss of his mother and thus embarks on a journey on ship to bring her back. The love story from Orpheus and Eurydice for children. There is a whole lot of help and adversity from all sorts of mysterious creatures he meets on his way, and it is exceedingly captivating to follow with plenty of pace all along. I sat and enjoyed the obvious references to Miyazaki, with little creatures that run in packs over the ground. This time they are not black but blue-green. The angel is in this version a scaly dragon- like creature, and Sct. Peter is a touching bureaucratic frog-like guy. Of the almighty godlike chaos force we only get to see the tentacles, but it is reminiscent of squid arms and enclose in the climax our poor friend's vessel. The character design is innovative and appealing. It is nice to see that you do not have to follow the standard tradition of design within CGI animation, which has become almost mandatory in the business. A story of life and death can be very strong, and it is in this case. I also got to think about the Irish film director Tomm Moore, who received an Oscar nomination for 'Song of the Sea' last year. Esben Toft Jacobsen had deserved a nomination as well.
A reference to 'One flew over the Coocoo's Nest' in its own right
I had the great pleasure of experiencing this new Danish comedy, the motivation strengthened by the fact that I am just now writing a book that has the confrontation between medical treatment and alternative treatment as a side issue. I was also pleased about the recently completed TV series, Alternative treatment - does it work?
My daughter wanted to watch Cuckoo's Nest the other day, so it was a review with one of cinema's classics. Now, Milos Forman has not directed The Funny Farm, which must be a probably English title and Paprika Steen does not have a role including a Jack Nicholson's looming rebellion, but less will do.
What also amused me was the references to Cuckoo's Nest. We do not have a huge Indian, but a large Zlatko Buric in partnership with a resigned Greenlander makes good replacement, and Zlatko also gives Paprika a ride on his shoulders. One of the inmates also demonstrate his opposition to the treatment by showing us the pills on his tongue followed by a big smile. The outing emulated here with a picnic to a woodland park. Eventually we even have a heavy object hurled through a window in the institution.
The screenwriter must have looked in a catalog of alternative therapies, for more than twenty of these mentioned or shown from the respected treatments as reflexology and cranial sacral massage to the more funny ones with necromancers spirit traps and seven stars objects.
We do not entirely know why poor Paprika placed in a mental hospital, but when she during the first meeting with the doctor insists that she is not taking any medication, the confrontation course is obviously established.
We are not surprised that she wins some patients and staff over to her alternative side during the process, and with the simple comedy approach we do not expect it to get to be anything more, but it does so anyway. We actually get a dramatic conclusion where the ideologies collide with serious consequences and thank you for that. With the reference to the Cuckoo's Nest, you are also obliged to that kind of ambition.
I am sorry that IMDb has been so cautious in its rating, but now only 131 persons have given their opinion. For me it was in any case one of the best Danish comedies I have seen for years.
Ida - a masterpiece
During Easter I watched this important film with my youngest daughter. My eldest daughter Ida had already seen it in the cinema. She wondered why we would spend the sunny afternoon watching this gripping but sombre movie. However, this was the time Maria had over for this kind of activity, and as a father you welcome these moments, when they suddenly show up.
Ida was nominated to an Oscar this year, and I salute the committee for their responsible choice of raising attention to this well deserved gem of a film so unlike any other film I have seen for years.
The film is about a Polish nun to be, who from the nunnery prioress is suggested to visit her aunt before taking the final decision of becoming a nun. So she does that.
I had thought it to be a film about spirituality and religion, but it was so much more. As it were, it developed into a responsible view on the fate of Jews in Poland.
An old friend of mine left Poland together with his family around 1970 when a harassment on Jews drove them out of Poland. They were discouraged from having a university study and education in general as well as many other things.
This Easter I was invited to an Easter lunch where a Jewish couple were present. I sat next to the man. At the age of 25 in 1970 he left Poland for the same reasons as my friend and seven years later he and his wife were able to get at Danish citizenship. We talked about a lot problems concerning minorities.
Ida is supposed to take place around 1960 I guess. It is made as films were still mostly made back then in black and white and the old film formate. It could have been a Resnais film with its deeply controlled minimalistic layout and naked storytelling. The characters are often pushed down in the lower part in the frame leaving the upper part almost empty, thereby almost symbolizing people being suppressed by the mere way they are allowed to be shown within the frame.
Ida is actually a Jew, but not looking Jewish she managed to escape killing when the rest of her family was murdered by poles during the war and maybe shortly after. The murderers took over the family farm, and they still hold it, when Ida and her aunt come back to the old family hometown.
The aunt has a past as a public prosecutor, and the Polish family feel urged to propose a deal. In exchange with Ida not pressing charges they will reveal where they buried the Jewish farm owner family after the killing.
I have already revealed too much. But the point of this production is a basically a Polish initiative trying to come to terms with the collective past and all the criminal and tragic things taking place during the war and later under the cover of communist oppression.
The genuine value of this stylistically brilliant movie is the willingness for the current society to accept and give witness to the atrocities continuing in Poland well after the conclusion of the second world war.
Don't miss out on this film, if you get the opportunity watch this. It is a polished gem reflecting on human violation and misery. Understandably it has divided the public. Some people fail to catch the actual meaning of this masterpiece.
Some years ago a danish filmmaker made an acclaimed movie about the harsh reality in the agricultural industry. Now a similar venture has been produced about equally troublesome conditions within todays fishing business. The actors are not well known, but that only contributes to the believability of the project. In truth there has not been made many attempts to cover that subject matter, and the structure of the drama could be valid for most fishing industry along the shores of Europe, where bigger boats are now needed to make fishing profitable. There is a symbolic meaning to the title of the film 'Ocean Sunfish' where a clumsy big fish is swimming lonely around in the local fish tank exposition. The main character feels the same way as a creature not really fitting in with the current development of his branch. To keep from bankruptcy he indulges in some illegal activity which eventually backfires. The film is a valid and honest tribute to the living conditions in the provinces, where the changes make it difficult to continue to live and keep up the old traditions.
Op og ned langs kysten (1950)
Musical comedy with seldom footage
Stig Lommer is not regarded a prolific film director, but he was a cabaret manager of astonishing caliber during the heyday of musical song and dance theatrical shows in the Forties and the Fifties and even longer than that. This film's claim to fame is that it has preserved some crazy footage of Svend Asmussen and his Danish Sextet around 1950. The barely existing excuse for an intrigue is the trouble between two couples on a seaside resort, where the bandmaster Asmussen consoles a neglected wife. To divert attention when the husband finds out, he fakes a suicide pretending to be in love with someone else. However the woman believes that to be true, so Asmussen is in bigger trouble than before, of course in a non committed almost slapstick fashion in this lightly performed musical dish. The funny performances of Asmussen also in real life existing band are hilarious, hitting the peak with a spoof on a national football game with the Danish archenemy Sweden. On top we have the whole string of Lommer's chorus girls in swimsuits running teasingly along the beach.
Sol over Danmark (1936)
This film is the first Danish road movie. In the thirties it was unusual to take a film camera out of the studio to make your film, but this is the case here,and the documentary shots are exceptional in clarity and contrast, much more than you expect from outdoors footage. Furthermore we move through the Danish province, which was seldom in Danish films. I have a nostalgia towards this. My childhood was in the fifties, but actually not much happened to geographical sites in those twenty years. The director comes from a career within silent movies, and dialog is not his strong point, but there is a general good humor and many happy smiling faces in this film, where the moral is 'Just take it easy, problems will solve themselves giving the time to act'. This cheerfulness and lightheartedness makes you think, for just south of the border Hitler used the same romantic nationalism for quite a different purpose. His 'kraft durch Freude' police eventually evolved into a strictly unhappy situation with violence and disaster. So watching this cheerful outdoors movie from 1936 kind of makes you think. It was the last chance to catch a happy folklore mood.
En pige uden lige (1943)
War time needs
When the world was falling apart during the war the moving going audience craved something basic they could relate to, and here a danish version of a successful Swedish play and film came in handy. It was executed very well by Jon Iversen with a cast perfect to portray the colorful characters. Ellen Gottchalch had a field day with the energetic performance to revive the lives of three dusty bachelor brothers living in a run down old farm. There is a side story of a girl not daring to accept the charming sailor returning to the island because she is too pleasing to a domineering mother with a moralistic husband making life difficult to young people. Taking her own bad decisions into account Gottschalch helps that daughter to take the proper decision and accept the handsome but still trustworthy sailor played by all time film lover of that time, Poul Reichhardt. That actor 24 years later played the part of one of the brothers in yet another version of the all time favorite of an efficient woman taking the running of a house into her hand. All in all a noteworthy film
24 timer (1951)
Brief Encounter Danish style
The Saga Film Studio showed more ambition than usual producing this closely knitted drama of a woman, well played by Astrid Villaume, torn between the secure life with her husband, the attorney Ebbe Rode, and the exuberant pianist Mogens Wieth, whom she meets by chance on a railway trip back to her home. She is infatuated by the suave artist and spends the night with him. However this is 1951, so when we see her waking up in the morning and sneaking out, we also see the artist still sleeping on the couch in the adjoining room. This drama reflects the old conflict of women having to choose between the security of being taken care of and an exciting life with a creative person. In those days women seldom had a career of their own. This drama is presented in a polite and well mannered way, almost too low key taking the subject matter into account. Still, the confrontation between the leading male actors being the best from their generation is well worth experiencing, even today. Hats off to a fine film presented in perfect cast and with beautiful performances.
Man elsker kun en gang (1945)
Well Executed Musical
The influence from American musicals is obvious, and presented in 1945 everything inspired from that culture had some extra appeal. However budgets never rose to American levels, so the dance scenes are cramped into a small studio area. The singing leads are perfect, and actually you never saw Else-Marie and Hans Kurt singing together that often on the silver screen. Their performances are brilliant, and the scores are quite excellent as well. The melodies might be forgettable, but they present the spark of the moment elevating the presentation. The storyline has been seen before, as young artists suddenly making it big and getting into a production of a musical show to be presented on film. But when was a musical ever original on the subject matter? For the handsome lead to appeal to women, he must act out as a bachelor. He is married, however, to the female lead, and the secret give rise to some intrigue twists where jealousy is a dramatic drive, but to the surprise of no one everything is cleared, so we can end our cinema evening on a happy note.
Prinsesse for en dag (1962)
I recently reviewed the new 'MGP Missionen' and this is the same simple story of a girl, who wants to be a singer. That ambition held true on behalf of the young actor, Gitte Hænning. After having completed a small number of films in Denmark, where she made it better than the subject matter she appeared in, she turned her attention south of the border and made it big as a German pop singer, 'Die Gitte'. This was a sober decision. Everything considered her singing talent might be better than her acting talent. I might not be quite neutral as a reviewer, for experiencing this picture for the first time I was brought back to my own youth, where films were more naive and goodhearted than today. The naive touch becomes Gitte well, and then there is a luring eroticism as an added attraction to her 16 years appearance. The film also displays the media scene of the day, where pirate ships in international waters transmitted popular entertainment to the young generation. Soon the official legal broadcasting systems adopted their approach, and the pirate music broadcasting became obsolete.