Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Brødre (Brothers)

This 2004 film is one incredibly strong, good and hard to watch drama by Susanne Bier with a screenplay co written by her and Anders Thomas Jensen that totally will capture your attention even when has a story that has been explored before quite a few times, but here becomes very original because of the actors performances, amazing directing and total absence of melodrama and clichés that allow to see depictions of real human beings.

The film tells about a happy married family where the husband, Michael is a Major at the Danish United Nation forces and before he leaves for Afghanistan he pickups his black sheep brother, Jannik who’s getting out of jail for bank robbery. In Afghanistan Michael helicopter is shot down and he’s declared dead. From that moment a ‘normal’ family has to deal with the consequences of having their lives turned upside down by events out of people’s control.

You can say that this is another war movie and yes, we get to see some not easy to watch moments of war, but it is not the regular war fare as deals more with a one man hard-to-take decision than with guns or explosions.

To my eyes the most impressive performance belongs to Ulrich Thomsen that plays Michael, a loving husband, father and a stern officer that suddenly becomes a total broken man and the ‘transformation’ is just impressive to watch not only for his performance but also for everything that implies. I’m having a hard time describing everything, as I really do not want to spoil the movie; so, I believe you will understand more what I mean after you see the movie that I definitively recommend as a must be seen drama.

But have to mention that the other two key lead characters Michaels brother Jannik (Nikolaj Lie Kaas) and wife Sarah (Connie Nielsen) are flawlessly and exquisitely performed and absolutely make you believe their uncomfortable attraction.

As a movie has excellent cinematography both in Denmark and Afghanistan, many hand-held camera takes, slow pace that allows contemplation, but mostly allows you to digest whatever is happening which makes some scenes harder to watch. This use of cinematography to enhance the drama is just spectacular and I believe that can only be done when you have the training and freedom of the Dogme 95 style as Bier does, even when she decided not to use the style in this movie.

This is a multiple award winner (11 wins) and nominated (20 nominations) movie that include winning the Silver Seashell at the 2004 San Sebastian International Film Festival for Best Actor to Ulrich Thomsen and Best Actress to Connie Nielsen, but also has awards and nominations at the 2006 Cannes and 2005 European Film Awards.

Something particular is happening to me while trying to write about this movie, I’m re-living everything, which is extraordinary and somehow troubling; this hardly ever happens to me, but speaks about how strong this drama can be. Then, I’m so glad I was able to watch this movie before I watch another movie that I know I will watch and until I started to read about this movie I didn’t knew it was the American remake of Brødre. I’m talking about the 2008 movie called Brothers starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Tobey Maguire and Natalie Portman.

Well, not an easy to digest and not easy to watch movie that I believe it is a must be seen for mature audiences that enjoy human reactions and relations in excellent arty European dramas. Also, if you have heard about the American remake and are thinking about watching it, I strongly suggest that you watch the original before, as I imagine that most of the raw and excellent drama could be lost in the 2008 version.

Last, after you see the movie or if you have already seen it, I suggest you read an interesting article about this movie in the Danish Film Institute that is here. The article includes some very interesting comments from Susanne Bier.


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