The first part of a classic, although underrated, Danish gangster trilogy
Danish director Hans Kristensen's trilogy about small-time gangster Per consists of FLUGTEN from 1973, PER from 1975 and BLIND MAKKER from 1976. The trilogy as a while is a classic in Danish cinema history, although sadly often underrated. I see it almost as the Danish equivalent of Francis Ford Coppola's THE GODFATHER trilogy: both trilogies are social-realistic 70's-works that portray real humans in gangster milieus. Danish social-realistic crime movies such as the Per trilogy, Anders Refn's (father of PUSHER director Nicolas Winding Refn) STRØMER from 1976, Esben Høilund Carlsen's NITTEN RØDE ROSER and the late-70's wave of serious kid's-movies all contributed in distancing Danish cinema from the extremely bad farces and melodramas of the 1960's. It seems to me that the directors of this wave were almost Danish equivalents of the bad boys of the New Hollywood Wave of the 70's (Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, Brian De Palma etc.).
Storyline: Small-time gangster Per (Ole Ernst) and his partner the morphine-addicted photographer Mikkel (Torben Hundal) collaborate to unravel the crime underworld of Copenhagen by secretly shooting photos of high-level gangsters meeting about criminal activity. But Per and Mikkel don't share the same motives. Per plans to blackmail the gangsters, and Mikkel wants to use the photos for a photo-book. Of course their plan goes wrong big-time, and their only remaining option is to escape...
In FLUGTEN it's a world of everyone-against-everyone. No man is safe. Find a way to climb the social ladder, and think about yourself only. Per and Mikkel are losers, but their motives are extremely common. There is a great quote by Edvin Kau from Levende billeder af Danmark, Medusa 1980 which sums it up perfectly: "The social life is depicted like the everyone-against-everyone battle of the jungle-law - and the mental as a game of masks and bluffing each other and struggling with insecurity and fear of defeat". My translation is terrible, but the idea shines trough I hope. FLUGTEN was impressive by the Danish standards of the time, but what primarily makes it watchable even by today's standards is its insistence on portraying its main-characters as real humans, and not your average gangster stereotypes.
FLUGTEN and PER jump-started a great career for Ole Ernst (Per) who later starred in movies such as HÆRVÆRK from 1977 (based on author Tom Kristensen's classic novel by the same name), Lars von Trier's EPIDEMIC from 1987, Anders Refn's SORT HØST from 1993 and recently REMBRANDT from 2003. The last-mentioned REMBRANDT is a fairly interesting crime movie portraying three generations of male gangsters: Ole Ernst plays the grandfather, Lars Brygmann plays the father and Jakob Cedergren plays the son. This three-generations-of-gangsters idea was copied from THE SCORE from 2001 in which Marlon Brando plays the grandfather, Robert De Niro plays the father and Edward Norton plays the son. This idea, although unoriginal, makes REMBRANDT interesting, as there is a direct connection between the actors' life-experience and the gangsters' life-experience. And it's of course highly possible to draw a red line from the Per trilogy to REMBRANDT.
The Per trilogy is a hugely underrated Danish classic that you don't have to be a film-student to enjoy. It's terrible that it has lost so much recognition over the years. Hopefully that will change. All three chapters are available on DVD (On Air Video's discount R2's) for circa 5$ (=30DKR). That should be affordable to most people, so there really is no excuse. Start your collection with FLUGTEN or PER. 9/10
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