In a Better World won an Oscar for the best foreign film back in 2010 but I guess I must have missed it. What a mistake that was! Sometimes I just can’t wrap my head around a certain movie, around its depth, its profound questions without answers, its glorious both artistic and realistic depiction of life as we know it, sometimes great and sometimes wicked. It’s so difficult to review movies like this because I could go on and on about a character or an event that is not even that big.
There’s not an aspect of this movie that was half-assed or done wrong. From stunning cinematography seamlessly transitioning from the tranquility of Danish everyday life to exotic and poverty-stricken scenes in Sudan to sound design, everything was perfectly executed. Matching and overpowering the visuals were the issues raised here. And when I say issues, I don’t mean it in a classical Hollywood sense where everything is clear-cut and obvious. Life is not obvious and clear-cut and if you think that it is, I urge you to think again. There are so many gray areas and so many things that we just have to accept all-the-while thinking how can we change things. And we’re talking about one of the best systems out there.
In a Better World is a Danish movie starring most of their A-listers (such an ugly, commercial word, I must not use it again) so if you’re familiar with Danish cinema (all four of you) you will see some familiar faces. It’s about two families with different sets of problems that they are trying to sort out. I know what you’re thinking (especially if you’re not too fond of drama or have specific taste): this is another boring drama where people just talk and nothing or little happens… This is not the case with Hævnen, it uses the real-life problems of these families as a lens to look at some of the much bigger issues in our lives. In the focus is the friendship between two boys and it that regard it reminded me of another great movie: The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas.
Almost every scene is so unbearably good that you will feel that your eyes are the cameras and the actors are your family. The good ones of course 🙂 Believe me, time will fly and you will have something to talk about for days after this movie, plus it might even help you put some of the events from your childhood and life in general in a better perspective. Man, I think that this movie should be mandatory viewing for everybody (feeling like a Breaking Bad or The Wire preacher again). Along with a slew of other issues discussed here, the most powerful one is revenge. And while I thought that Hævnen means heaven, it does not. It means revenge.
The ease with which the film-makers interlocked these stories is only a testament to the hard work done before the shooting even began. And if you like these movies like Traffic, Crash, Babel, 21 Grams and Hereafter, you will love this one. And if you would like to continue your exploration of foreign cinema I would also like to recommend Cidade de Deus set in the slums of Rio.
Director: Susanne Bier
Writer: Anders Thomas Jensen, Susanne Bier
Cast: Mikael Persbrandt, Ulrich Thomsen, Camilla Gottlieb, William Jøhnk Nielsen, Wil Johnson
Fun Facts: The story that Christian reads at his mother’s funeral is Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Nightingale”.