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The Richness and Freedom of Danish Cinema

A Look at the 3rd Danish Film Festival

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By Rica Arevalo

Over the weekend the 3rd Danish Film Festival was held at the Shangri-La Plaza Cineplex in Mandaluyong City. We have admired Danish films for a long time. From Gabriel Axel’s Babette’s Feast (1987) to the Dogme 95 movement featuring Lars von Trier’s Breaking the Waves (1996) and Thomas Vinterberg’s The Celebration (1998).

For this year, the wide selection included family stories, gang-related crimes, martial arts, healed and broken relationships.

Dogme 95 director Vinterberg is back with The Commune (2016), which competed for the Golden Bear at the 66th Berlin International Film Festival. Trine Dyrholm won the Silver Bear for Best Actress where she plays Anna, a TV newsreader married to a well-liked professor Erik (Ulrich Thomsen). Her husband inherits an ancestral home and opens their home to a diverse group of people to “commune” with them.  Erik then forms an illicit relationship with his young student who gets to live with them—awkward!

  • The Commune directed by Thomas Vinterberg

  • A divorced policeman kidnaps his son in Echo.

  • After the Wedding was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language

  • Key House Mirror

  • Aicha secretly trains at a kung fu club in Fighter.

  • Mads Mikkelsen plays Jacob who runs an orphanage in India

    Key House Mirror (2015) stars two powerhouse actors Ghita Norby and Sven Wollter. The romantic drama is an entertaining look on extra-marital affairs of senior citizens living in a nursing home. Norby plays Lily who is a devoted wife to her paralyzed husband. When Piloten (Wollter) moves in, Lily longed for intimacy and adventure with the new neighbor. All are against the relationship but Lily tries to stand by her freedom to love again.

    Michael Noer’s Northwest (2013) stars real-life brothers Gustav and Oscar Dyekjær Giese, who got cast via Facebook. They play small-time burglars hoping to join a bigger crime syndicate to improve their impoverished life. Drug use, prostitution, and violence are prevalent on this movie set in a Copenhagen suburb. Although the actors are non-professional, they both look believable and delivered solid performances.

    Fighter (2007) directed by Natasha Arthy is set in Copenhagen where Aicha (Semra Turan) pursues her dream to become a kung fu martial artist to the point of neglecting her studies and family duties. This is a typical rebellion of a young woman against her traditional Turkish immigrant family. She was challenging her identity in this cross-cultural, coming-of-age action pic and literally running to her dreams. Romance develops between Aicha and good-looking Emil (Cyron Melville), where they show their tension and deep feelings with each other while engaging in the sport. The fight and stunt scenes were choreographed by Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’s Xian Gao.

    If you’re interested in a psychological crime thriller, Anders Morgenthaler’s Echo (2007) is a quiet but haunting depiction of kidnapping. The divorced policeman, Simon, played by Kim Bodnia abducts his six-year-old son to an abandoned beach house, thinking it would be their last holiday together. They bond and play in the idyllic surroundings.  But faced by his own demons, Simon goes back to his painful childhood memories leading to his breakdown and insanity.

    One of the highlights of this year’s festival is Susanne Bier’s After the Wedding (2006) starring Mads Mikkelsen. This film was nominated at the 2007 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language but lost to Germany’s The Lives of Others. The Danish actor plays Jacob who runs an orphanage in India. Without funds to run his advocacy, a businessman offers to give a substantial donation but Jacob has to go back to Denmark and live there again. He struggles to revisit past memories and to rekindle the relationship with his one true love. He attends one wedding and his world turns upside down big time.

    Danish cinema is home to a lot of rich genres, redefining the medium with its distinctive storytelling and invents a new philosophy on what is life all about.

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