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Denmark's winning foreign entry for the Oscars, is an intriguing study in conflict resolution and dissolution. The story is split between a remote African refugee camp, and Denmark's industrialized society. While working in Africa, Dr. Anton (Mikael Persbrandt) is separated from his wife Marianne (Trine Dyrholm) in Denmark, where she raises the couple's 10-year-old son Elias (Markus Rygaard) and younger brother. Wearing braces on his teeth, Elias is a target for bullies at the private school he attends with a recently arrived misfit named Christian (William Jøhnk Nielsen). Christian's mother's recent death by cancer has left him with a major chip on his shoulder. Nielsen's self-possessed performance is reminiscent of Jean-Pierre Léaud's unforgettable portrayal in François Truffaut's "The 400 Blows." Christian acts violently to nip in the bud a bully's daily attacks against Elias with whom Christian shares a new friendship. In Africa, a local despot who likes to cut open the bellies of pregnant women comes to Dr. Anton to heal his badly infected leg. Such experiences inform Anton's actions when his sons and Christian witness him being slapped by a local brute in a public square. Elias and Christian clamor for Anton to take retribution against the man who hit him. Instead, Anton takes the boys to the shop where the bully works to ask the man to explain his brutality The bully merely reverts to his trademark behavior. Anton's refusal to defend himself, much less punish the aggressor, might show him to the kids as fearless, but it leaves Christian and Elias looking to exact their own retribution against the thug. While not as strong as Canada's foreign entry for the Oscars, "Incendies," Susanne Bier's "In a Better World" is a thought-provoking film full of remarkable performances.
Rated R. 113 mins. (B+) (Four Stars - out of five/no halves)
Posted by Cole Smithey on
March 27, 2011 in Foreign | Permalink
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