DVD Review: The Idealist

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Riveting conspiracy thriller exposes a real-life Danish political scandal.

The story of a journalist’s investigation into the cover-up of a nuclear accident is a gripping drama that may represent the closest Danish cinema has come to producing its own equivalent of All The President’s Men.  A tense drama cast in the mould of classic 1970s conspiracy thrillers The Conversation and The Parallax View, director Christina Rosendahl’s second feature film is based on journalist Poul Brink’s book The Thule Affair – A Universe of Lies.

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Working at a local radio station Poul Brink (Peter Plauborg) uncovered one of the darkest chapters in modern Danish history. His commitment to revealing the truth about the nation’s nuclear policy during the cold war rewrote history. Batting against the Danish and US governments, he was prepared to risk imprisonment in his quest to uncover the facts about a botched cleanup operation.

The events recreated in The Idealist continue to resonate for Danish and Greenlandic audiences.  Poul Brink’s findings revealed that Denmark’s foreign and nuclear policies were based on a succession of lies.

In 1968 a B-52 bomber crashed in Greenland close to a US military base. The plane was carrying four nuclear weapons. Three were salvaged and one was lost. All references to the missing bomb were removed from official documents. 18 years later, Poul Brink discovered Danish workers involved in the clean-up operation were suffering from a variety of skin diseases, including cancer. Initially sceptical, Brink’s journey into the murky world of international politics will shatter a deceased Prime Minister’s reputation and lead to renewed calls for Greenland’s official independence.

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Underscoring her commitment to presenting an honest version of events, director Christina Rosendahl incorporates archival footage of the cleanup operation and news reports. Restrained in its treatment of the allegations contained within Brink’s book, The Idealist is an effective attempt to highlight abuse of power and dramatise one man’s determination to expose the truth.

Despite the story’s emotional potency and its continued relevance for Greenlanders seeking independence, the director has chosen to present a cool and largely understated account. Possibly the most significant film about Danish journalism, The Idealist‘s commitment to authenticity enhances its spellbinding power. An intelligent and challenging account of a reporter stumbling across a story that will transform how the nation views its own history.

The presence of high-calibre actors, including The Killing‘s Søren Malling, brings gravitas to the production. The Idealist is an impressive thriller that deserves to make headlines.

The Idealist is available to order from Amazon.

BBC News report of the B-52’s crash and search for the fourth bomb.

DVD Review: The Hour of the Lynx

Borgen director and Danish Academy award winner Soren Kragh-Jacobsen returns to the big screen with a haunting psychological drama that reunites The Killing‘s Sofie Gråbøl and Søren Malling. Adapted from a play by Per Olov Enquist, The Hour of the Lynx sees Gråbøl playing Helen, a priest who is struggling to convince herself that her work has any meaning for the modern world. Ministering to the spiritual needs of a small community, she preaches sermons at poorly attended services. Unable to contain the barely concealed frustration she utters a mild obscenity during preparations for a Confirmation ceremony and is admonished by a parishioner for defiling a place of worship.

An opportunity for personal salvation arrives when the church is visited by Lisbeth, a duty psychiatrist (Signe Egholm Olsen of Borgen) at the nearby secure hospital. For several weeks the institution has been running a behavioural experiment studying how patients respond to sharing their personal space with animals. The killer of an elderly couple has been assigned a cat. Initially unresponsive to treatment, he becomes more animated when partnered with a feline. Early reports suggest that the study has been a success but then something goes wrong and the patient is placed on suicide watch after an unsuccessful attempt to end his life. Convinced that self murder is part of God’s plan he is determined to try again.

The project is facing imminent shut down so Lisbeth reaches out to the Helen hoping she can form a meaningful emotional connection with the inmate. As the hours tick away until the study is terminated Helen builds a rapport and tries to understand the trauma he has carried with him for so long and why that led him to murder two strangers. Racing against time to save his life, and Lisabeth’s professional reputation, an intense therapy session takes place exposing dark thoughts and painful memories.

Soren Kragh-Jacobsen has crafted an uncompromising examination of guilt, faith, love, and the power of memory. Compelling in its exploration of the shadowy corners of the human psyche. This elegiac lament for lost innocence asks soul searching questions about the fragility of beliefs and possibility of redemption. A film based upon distinct oppositions. The claustrophobic environment of a secure hospital is contrasted with the tranquillity of Sweden’s countryside. Minister of faith and scientist have seemingly incompatible perspectives but are forced by circumstance to overcome their mutual suspicions and work together.

Transcending it’s theatrical origins, The Hour of the Lynx is a highly intelligent and emotionally powerful film which effectively fills the cinematic canvas courtesy of nuanced cinematography sympathetic to the script’s intentions and uniformly excellent screen performances.

Steadfastly refusing to sugar coat or trivialise the subject matter, viewers are plunged head first into the darker recesses of a troubled soul. This movie will linger in the viewer’s memory. Recommended.

The Hour of the Lynx is available to order from Amazon:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Hour-Of-Lynx-DVD/dp/B00KILJX90/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1412579253&sr=8-1&keywords=the+hour+of+the+lynx

To commemorate this film’s release Ash Loydon has produced a stunning portrait of Sofie Gråbøl.

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See further examples of Ash Loydon’s work at:

http://ashsarthole.blogspot.co.uk/

DVD Review: Accused

Continuing its programme of complementing the release of new series with titles sourced from the archives of Scandinavian film studios, Arrow Films brings us it’s latest DVD, Accused. Made in 2006 the film has parallels with Thomas Vinterberg’s 2012 movie The Hunt in that both are concerned with the consequences of allegations of paedophilia. Whereas the 2012 movie focused on the emotional and social consequences of an innocent man being accused of molestation, Accused‘s primary focal point is the slow destruction of a family when an allegation of incest is made by the daughter.

Director Jacob Thuesen and screenwriter Kim Fupz Aakeson have crafted a film that vacillates between dreamlike and nightmarish .The decision to be ambiguous about the accused’s guilt or innocence for much of the film is a deliberate editorial choice that results in the viewer feeling confused over what emotions should be experienced: sympathy or relief that justice is being metered out. Similarly, the stylistic choices made in the use of framing and lighting appear to have been made on the basis of not creating or accentuating a particular interpretation.

The film takes its inspiration from an incident in screenwriter Kim Fupz Aakeson’s childhood when a man from the local community was arrested for raping a woman at a train station. Forever more tainted by the allegation he would no longer be regarded within the locality solely as a father, a friend, or good employee. From that moment onwards doubt would remain about his self proclaimed innocence.

Whilst promoted as a Sofie Gråbøl starring movie, Accused’s lead actor is Troels Lyby who plays Henrik a father protesting his innocence, fighting against suspicion, whilst trying to prevent his wife from leaving him. With his wife Nina, Henrik should have an idyllic middle class life but something is wrong, something is very wrong. The teenage daughter, Stine, should be an an ever present physical presence around which the family revolves but is instead mysteriously withdrawn and it is this absence that creates a crack which has the power to destroy the very foundations of the household.

Henrik is a swimming instructor, and this choice of career allows the director and screenwriter to play a highly intelligent game with the viewer in which they explore the plurality of cinematic metaphors associated with water; source of life and representation of sexuality. As instructor, Henrik is in a position of responsibility that requires him to act as both carer and mentor, this parallels his duties as father so therefore the potential risk should the allegations be proven is very great in terms of the home and the safety of those being tutored.

At first it seems as though Henrik has a comfortable life: married to Nina, a secure job and the trust and respect of his colleagues and those being taught to swim. From the opening frames we, the viewers, know that this life must surely be torn apart, and throughout the rest of the film we are not quite sure if it can ever again be put back together. Even if found not guilty will parents continue to allow him to teach their children to swim? Might the the court of public opinion carry out its own independent verdict and sentencing?

At personal, familial, and social levels this film explores the devastation caused by that the spectre of paedophilia. That we are unsure of Henrik’s guilt or innocence for much of the movie creates an interesting situation in which we must explore our own attitudes to how cases are investigated, and if the support network for those making allegations is effective or over zealous.

An indispensable DVD. In common with Vinterberg’s The Hunt this is a film that will remain with you long after the end credits.

Accused is available on DVD from Amazon:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B00BQYTIXY/ref=s9_simh_gw_p74_d0_i3?pf_rd_m=A3P5ROKL5A1OLE&pf_rd_s=center-2&pf_rd_r=19YANA3FBSXZGKK0X6XR&pf_rd_t=101&pf_rd_p=358549767&pf_rd_i=468294

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=4Xyl4l7bnJM