Tuesday, August 30, 2011
"In a Better World": Who knew despair and redemption could be so pretty?
Once upon a time, I was in a Masculinity Studies reading group, where we would periodically watch films that dealt with what it meant to be a man in particular sociohistorical moments. It was a lot more fun than that previous sentence might suggest. Anyway, were I still in that group, I would have everyone over to watch this 2010 Danish drama that won best Foreign Language Film at the Oscars last year.
The movie dances between a small town in Denmark and a refugee camp in Sudan (I had to look that up--the film never specifies), and two families dealing with two traumas. To say anything further would rob you of your viewing pleasure, but I will say it's all about power, and the different ways different men (and men-in-training) wield it. At times "IaBW" shows its hand a bit too boldly--there are elements introduced early that you just know are going to wreak havoc later (e.g., a knife, a silo, and an African warlord), but the movie manages to rise above being a mere morality play and actually say something cogent and poignant about loss, and violence, and empathy. It helps that the performances are all remarkably layered and authentic, particularly the young actor who plays Christian. He's given an impossible role and plays it like a genius and should be a superstar.
The more I think about "In a Better World," the more I want to think about "In a Better World." I'm not positive that the film's conflation of different types of domination is entirely warranted, but I'm willing to consider the argument. Then again, I might have just been seduced into believing in this movie by the sumptuous color-drenched gorgeousness of each of the careful shots, and actually, I'm sort of okay with that--it's nice to be seduced by a movie every once in a while.