Simon is the king of the Danish art scene - eccentric, successful, wealthy, with a beautiful wife and a young mistress. Life is beautiful, until the day his unknown son Casper turns up and ...
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Simon is the king of the Danish art scene - eccentric, successful, wealthy, with a beautiful wife and a young mistress. Life is beautiful, until the day his unknown son Casper turns up and attracts all the attention. It turns out that Casper is the world-famous graffiti artist "The Ghost". This is a provocation and a challenge to Simon, and the relationship between father and son is put to a serious test. However, against all odds he two slowly grow closer to each other, but the question is whether blood ties are enough? Because after all Simon has no plans of being a father, and Casper has other plans with his father than simply getting to know him.
a tense Nordic essay on ageing, art, and father-son rivalry
Can art have moral integrity if it is created by a narcissistic hypocrite? This is one of the questions teased out in the multi-layered film The Man (2017) shown at the Sydney-Scandinavian Film Festival. It's a feisty essay on ageing, art, and the timeless dynamic of father-son rivalry, aa set in the upmarket bohemian art world of Copenhagen.
Surrounded by adoring acolytes in his warehouse gallery, Simon (Soren Malling) is a self-indulgent artist who flaunts his success while hiding his megalomania behind a façade of eccentricity. He wears designer pyjamas both at work and at public functions as a badge of non-conformity but is at heart an insecure middle-aged man who needs young flesh around him to feel relevant. His open-marriage trysts take their toll on his too-tolerant wife Darling (Ane Dahl Torp) whose real name is not used in Simon's self-centred world. Without warning, his abandoned son Casper (Jakob Oftebro) arrives for a stay to get to know the man who is his father. The cool reception immediately turns hostile when the handsome Casper tells Simon that he is a famous street artist: "graffiti is not art" screams Simon. When his wife and lover show interest in Casper, Simon's emotional world begins to fray. Just as father and son seem to be getting to know each other, Casper opens his own exhibition at a competing gallery that turns out to be a critical expose of a famous artist.
Much to everyone's delight, had Casper painted a giant mural of a shrouded head on the multi- story building across from Simon's gallery. This becomes the metaphor that frames the story. Father and son confrontation has been done many times before but rarely with such a dense and explosive mixture of vanities, foibles and egos. The narrative is a matrix of cross-currents: Casper is charming, patient with his father, and cool with his self-identity. Simon is conceited, has fickle notions of fatherhood, and his masculinity balances feebly on his identity as an artist. Both Malling and Oftebro are excellent in pushing the emotional boundaries of their roles.
One of the reasons this tense Nordic psycho-drama feels refreshing is that it is not a Hollywood production. Instead of a simplistic high-concept premise that is seen in too many films today, The Man depicts human weakness and unpredictability with full-frontal realism that defies labels and it deconstructs art world pretensions without offering resolutions. The story twists and turns until the sweet-faced prodigal son reveals his own version of malice in an ambivalent finale that will have many viewers wondering how the story ended.
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