Fear Me Not (2008) Poster


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Jekyll & Hyde
ReganRebecca8 September 2008
Got a chance to catch the world premiere of Fear Me Not, directed and written by Kristian Levring, at the Toronto Internal Film Festival.

The film examines the deterioration of the life of a man in his mid-40's facing a mid-life crisis exasperated by the fact that he has become addicted to a prescription medication with nasty side effects.

Ulrich Thomsen dominates the movie as Mikael, a doctor who has recently taken a sabbatical from work only to find himself bored and at a loss at what to do with his time. On a whim he enters into a medical study examining the side effects of a newly developed anti-depressant. When he, and other patients, begin to exhibit violent tendencies Mikael finds that he is both unable and unwilling to stop taking the drugs. Fascinated by the positive outlook on life that he gains from the little pills Mikael finds himself acting out increasingly aggressive and violent fantasies on strangers and even his own family and friends.

Ulrich Thomsen does great work here portraying the mostly docile and kind Mikael with great depth and persona. Even in the midst of acting out his most cruel fantasies Thomsen displays a sense of uncertainty and bewilderment at his own actions as if he, along with the audience, is shocked at the dramatic results that the pills have produced. Paprika Steen, in a supporting role as Mikael's wife Sigrid, turns a mediocre role into something exciting. Even small scenes, like when Mikael and Sigrid are playing scrabble, are filled with tension as we watch Sigrid drift between anger, annoyance and hurt as she tries to convince Mikael to go back to work.

The cinematography is gorgeous and includes plenty of lush scenery. The editing really adds to the overall mood of the piece, the frequent jump-cuts helping to enhance the fragmented, jittery feelings as Mikael finds himself being splintered between two sides of himself.

As a whole the movie is decent but a last minute twist in the final act turns the movie into full blown melodrama. Despite the histrionics of the final ten minutes and the rather disappointing conclusion told mostly through voice-over, the movie is still worth watching for Thomsen and Steen's performances as well as the enticing and astonishing build-up as Mikael goes from a placid family-man to a malevolent, abusive husband.

Levring and Thomsen were actually at the screening and had a brief q & a afterwards. It was really cool, Levring talked a bit about his inspiration for the film and mentioned Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde which really came across in the way that the pill popping scenes were filmed and edited.
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Indictment of our world
sergepesic7 October 2012
Middle aged Mikael,depressed, numb, sleepless. Beautiful house overlooking a body of water, quite a bit of money,seemingly happy marriage, surprisingly docile teenage daughter, all to no avail. Thus, this indictment of civilized, affluent, but ultimately lonely and empty western world. The world of people who have more than plenty, but always desire the impossible. Some imaginary, complete fulfillment that tops all the joys of the joys. Quiet, slow, but hauntingly eerie movie. It makes you uncomfortable, because it seems so easily our life, our nightmare. Real horrors do not involve psychotic masked killers or demonic spirits. Our own demons outweigh all the fiction.
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Where depression and insecurity merge aggressively.
RJBurke194220 November 2011
This is a disturbing, psychological story that centers upon the private narrative of a man who – like many people – hides repression and aggression behind an overly calm exterior: in short, an example of the passive-aggressive personality type.

At once protagonist and antagonist, Mikael (Ulrich Thomsen) is in crisis with himself: he's at the mid-point of his life, he's lost his way at work and on enforced leave, and he sits around at home with this wife and daughter wondering what to do next. He exercises. He reads. He watches TV. He and his wife, Sigrid (Paprika Steen) have their married relatives, Frederick (Lars Brygmann) and Ellen (Stine Stengade), over for dinner often; they all discuss news, listen to music, see movies, talk about life, politics and so on. The two men often row together for exercise and camaraderie. Crucially, Mikael keeps a very private diary on his computer, the content of which is periodically narrated in voice-over throughout the story.

We learn that Frederick is a psychologist (perhaps psychiatrist) who is conducting test trials of a new medication designed to counter depression. It's cutting edge stuff; but there are potential, unspecified and serious side-effects. Yet, privately and away from the women, Mikael pleads with Frederick to be part of the trial. Frederick agrees, but issues strict guidelines of use when he hands over a package. Mikael agrees.

Weeks pass while Mikael settles into the routine of taking one tablet per day and weekly visits to Frederick's office for blood tests and scans. Subtly and gradually, we see that Mikael's actions begin to take turns for worse, beginning with a random act of violence on a stranger, followed by an improper suggestive proposal to a young woman that just stops short. But, Mikael feels good – for the first time in months, he feels alive...

So Mikael ups the ante for himself: he starts taking more than one tablet per day and that's when his repressed desires turn upon his wife, his daughter and Ellen, with suspenseful and unsettling results. But not quite the results that one might expect because there's a twist to this story that makes the end even more unnerving and, for this viewer, more believable.

So, this is not a story that's fast-paced. It's no thriller. It is suspenseful, however, as we see how Mikael relates to his family, friends and others and how his personality subtly and overtly changes for the worse. Best of all, we know always what's going on inside his head.

I've seen Ulrich Thomsen in Brothers (2004) and The Silence (2010), both excellent and harrowing psychological portrayals of disturbed personalities. With this addition, there's no doubt he is a fine actor who can carry difficult roles well; however, he might risk becoming type-cast. The rest of the cast is more than adequate. But this is Thomsen's movie, being in the frame for nearly every bleak, color de-saturated scene, and with the additional symbolism of the closing scene staying with this viewer long after.

I guess you can see this film as an indictment of excessive recourse to drugs for social and psychological ills; on the other hand, maybe it's just a picture of post-post-modernism in which many are struggling to cope with diminishing expectations. I can relate to both. Give it a seven.

Recommended, but not for kids.

November 21, 2011.
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TBJCSKCNRRQTreviews26 December 2008
Hitchcock would be proud. The art of hinting within cinema is still alive. This doesn't spell everything out for you. The trailer for this does not do it justice. I was not expecting to enjoy this as much as I did. It is a film about discontentment, control, and the urges and thoughts lying just beneath the surface. I was pleased to find that Anders Thomas Jensen helped write this, as I enjoyed Blinkende Lygter(or Flickering Lights) and Mørke(also known as Murk), the latter in particular. I would say that you can tell that he had a hand in making this. I believe this is the first film by Levring I've seen, but I certainly am taking notice to his directorial style. Interesting choices are made, among other places in framing and cutting. The editing and cinematography are definitely worth attention. The story-telling is very subtle, and the use of narration does not become a crutch. The pacing is spot-on, it never moved too slow or fast. The acting is excellent, every single performance is beyond reproach. Even the kid, and that's not something that happens all that often. The use of music is good. This can be rather intense, and proper care is taken to build up suspense. There is a little sexuality including obscured nudity, as well as a bit of language and bloodless violence in this. I recommend this to anyone who wants the themes explored for 95 minutes, and/or those who dig a great thriller. 8/10
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Danish psychosis
lee_eisenberg6 January 2015
"Den du frygter" ("Fear Me Not" in English) reminded me of David Cronenberg's movies. The results of the main character's taking the pills call to mind the risks associated with pharmaceuticals. We hear about side effects, but what happens to this man go beyond that. It would make more sense if the natural substances were more available.

It's a very well done movie. This is partly because the viewer thinks that there are degrees to which the movie won't go...but it goes to them. We also get a look at the Danish countryside; its idealistic appearance belies the character's descent into madness. I'm unfamiliar with the rest of Kristian Levring's work but now I'd like to see more of his movies. Denmark has produced some great directors (Carl Theodor Dreyer and Lars von Trier, for instance), and I'd say that Levring is also in that number.
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Great acting...
corky-2728 December 2010
but only a so-so rendering of what ultimately is the harrowing depiction of a man's mid-life crisis. Thomsen is awesome, as is Steen, and the atmosphere is "Dogmetically" foreboding, but the protagonist is never convincingly portrayed in any way other than the selfish, psychotic lout that he embodies throughout. I loved Levring's The King Is Alive, and in fact gave it a rare (for me) 10 rating on this website. But for me this is a classic case of a film failing to become greater than the sum of its parts. In the end, a decent enough character study, with a neat twist at the end, but nothing we haven't seen before, and done much better (Michael Douglas in Falling Down came to mind for me, at least). 5 out of 10 on my IMDb-ometer.
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Dark and emotionally spellbinding.
lpuishis6 March 2010
I was disappointed to notice the relatively low collective rating for Kristian Levring's "Fear Me Not." This was one of the best psychological thrillers I've yet to see. Particularly, I think the plot twist was brilliant. I don't want to spoil the film, so I won't go into details about the twist - however, I can say that it definitely pulled me further into the story and it enhanced the film's depth and psychological implications. I also feel the setting was perfect for the protagonist's dark emotional journey. His family's home was on a vast lake within the picturesque Danish landscape. If shot in the summer, the setting would have felt completely different. However, it seems to have been filmed in the fall or early winter, which aptly portrays the cold, dark and somber environment associated with winters in Northwestern Europe. Overall, I believe that anyone who enjoys psychological thrillers would have much to become mesmerized with in this film.
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Another Nordic nightmare
HallmarkMovieBuff12 April 2011
Warning: Spoilers
As any serious movie buff knows, existential depression is a recurring theme in Scandinavian film. Indeed, it's so prevalent, that it seems to rear its ugliness even when it's not explicit, but merely lurking in the undertones or dimming the landscapes.

Bergman's gone now, but others have taken up the mantle. Levring's "Fear Me Not" is among those newer works which propagate the genre.

Here, we have a middle-aged man (Mikael, a.k.a. Mik) on sabbatical, who finds himself at odds with his newfound leisure time. Almost on a whim, he becomes a test subject in his brother-in-law Frederik's drug trial for a new anti-depressant. Exhilarated at the increasing sense of freedom provided by the pills he's been given, Mik starts pushing the boundaries of his heretofore so-called normal behavior.

The incident which kicks off this diversion in behavior is a brawl amongst the subjects waiting for their biweekly checkup. To his surprise, as well as to that of his doctor/brother-in-law/rowing partner, Mik participates in the tussle by punching another patient in the nose. To Mik's dismay, the rumble naturally results in the cancellation of the trial. Mik swears to Frederik that he's disposed of the remaining pills, but we know that's a lie. (What seemed odd to this viewer is that Mik was given a supply of pills to last much longer than would seem to be appropriate for a drug trial.)

Relieved of regular appointments demanded by the drug trial, and seeking separation from his wife, Sigrid, whom we know is devoted, but whom Mik sees from his current point of view as increasingly controlling, Mik hies himself to his boyhood home in the country on the excuse that he's going to visit his mother, who is now in a rest home. Once there, Mik revels in being alone, and further tests his freedom by lying to a caller who's reached a wrong number by telling the caller that the intended recipient of the call has died.

Liking more and more the way the pills are making him feel, Mik starts overdosing on them with no apparent ill effect. Calm and collected at all times throughout, with no indication of any abnormality in his interpersonal dealings, Mik's experimenting reaches a head when he nearly assaults a young woman who has asked him for a ride. Realizing that he's reached some sort of brink, Mik tosses the pills into the trash, only to retrieve them later, just as the trash man is about to dump them into the garbage truck.

Back home, Mik decides that to regain control in his marriage, he must destroy it and rebuild it from scratch. Thus, he starts behaving like a subversive SoB, and eventually verges on becoming a homicidal maniac. In the middle of all this, as Mik is about to tell Frederik that he bedded Frederik's wife, Ellen, using the pills as an excuse, but really as the coup de grâce in destroying the relationships among all around him, Frederik tells Mik that Mik was on placebos during the drug trial, thus making Mik realize that his evil behavior was within him all along. What Mik does next is left to the viewer.

This movie is well done all around: fine acting, expert directing, economical script with spare dialog, and beautiful photography. Too bad the subject is so somber. The film's greatest triumph, perhaps, is in making the mood of the audience match that of the movie itself: depressing.
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A Thrilling Take on Civilization
krouses25 March 2010
Warning: Spoilers
"When you always try to stay in the right track, it is nice to leave it". These are the words spoken by Mikael (Ulrich Thomsen), a 42 year old man who desires a change in his life. In this Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde - inspired drama, directed by Kristian Levring, Mikael is offered the opportunity to be a guinea pig and partake in a clinical trial for a new anti-depressant drug. Without even a slight hesitation, he accepts the offer to be a subject in the study, but fails to mention his involvement to either his wife Sigrid (Paprika Steen) or daughter Selma (Emma Sehested Hoeg). After a few weeks, the study is canceled due re- occurring dangerous side effects. This does not stop Mikael, who likes the way the pills make him feel and he continues on with the abandoned trial. Pretty soon, Mikael begins to lose control and no one, not even Mikael himself can predict what he will do next. Levring does an excellent job of keeping the audience on the edge of their seats throughout this suspenseful drama.

One of Levring's core beliefs is that "civilization is a wonderful thing, but we need to keep in mind that people are animals who need a certain freedom". This theme can be seen in almost all of his films and we especially see this displayed in Den Du Frygter. For most of his life, Mikael worked and lived a relatively ordinary life. While this is all fine and good for the majority of people, Mikael wanted to add more excitement and have more freedom in his life. We see this when he is out rowing with his good friend Fredrick (Lars Brygmann), who happens to also be one of the lead physicians in the study, if he can be one of the test subjects. He thought taking the anti-depressants might spice up his life a bit. Granted Mikael took things a little too far, but he also had so many years of boredom and frustration building up in his life that I think he would have eventually erupted whether he took the anti-depressant drugs or not.

In all the trailers I saw before actually watching Den Du Frygter, I was under the assumption that there would be a lot of violence shown in the film. This was not the case. I found this film to be interesting in the fact that it deals with some very violent situations, but it actually shows very little violence. After watching a post film interview, Levring made it clear that he did not want graphic violence to be represented because he believed it would take the audience away from focusing on the main themes and plot of the movie. I think this was a huge risk by Levring and it might ultimately steer some people away from viewing this film. For me personally, I think the omission of the graphic violence adds more suspense to the film and kept me on the edge of my seat wondering what Mikael is going to do next.

In terms of the film-making, Levring adds several little details which enhance the overall quality of the film. For one, the house used in the film has lots of windows and is very wide open, which is interesting because the film deals with people who like to conceal everything. The movie could have been made incorporating several shadows and darker scenes, but instead Levring decides to go against the norm and add his own unique flare to the film. Sticking with themes in the house, Levring takes particular pride in his set designs; he strives to get away from your typical "IKEA" house that you see in other films. Having been one of the four founders of the Dogma 95 movement in Denmark, Levring likes to add more naturalness in his films. For those who might not be familiar with Dogma 95, it was a cinematic political act in response to Hollywoodization. Den Du Frygter is not considered to be a Dogma 95 film, but some aspects of the movement are still visible in the film. For example, almost everything that was actually filmed was put into the movie. Very little extra footage was left out of the film, which is common in all of the Dogma 95 movies. Also you see some infidelity in this film, which was another popular theme during the movement. Even though details like these are minute, they help the film stand out and differentiate itself.

As long as you are not looking for a movie with extreme amounts of gore and violence, I think you will be pleasantly surprised with Kristian Levring's Den Du Frygter. The acting is superb, and the film pays significant attention to detail. I would recommend the movie to anyone looking for an intense thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat while trying to anticipate what will happen next.
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If not for trick ending this film would have been terrible
filmalamosa3 February 2012
Warning: Spoilers
To me this film was tedious and depressing until the trick ending which was like a catharsis for the hour and a half horror movie build up.

A middle aged man takes a leave of absence from his job. He is unhappy and in a midlife crisis about the meaning of life.

His childhood friend sums it up... "we had big plans but have to accept that this is all there is"

He enrolls in an experimental antidepressant trial to help. Real changes begin to take place in his life with these pill but the side effects seem to be increased sex violence and erratic behaviour. There is the atmosphere of a horror movie--something really terrible is going to start happening.

Then it is revealed that he was on a placebo (sugar pills) and all the changes in his personality and behavior were just part of him so to speak... you have this great relief.

I don't like horror movies and since the first hour and half of this are like one don't recommend it.
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