Posted June 15, 2011 by Peter D. Marsay in DVD/Blu-ray
 
 

In A Better World


Why do we go to the cinema? For escapism, solitude, inspiration and perhaps to feel something outside of ourselves, deeper emotion than we might feel comfortable with in real life. The Oscar-winning In a Better World (15) presents an emotional powerhouse of an experience that will not be soon forgotten.

Why do we go to the cinema? For escapism, solitude, inspiration and perhaps to feel something outside of ourselves, deeper emotion than we might feel comfortable with in real life. The Oscar-winning In a Better World (15) presents an emotional powerhouse of an experience that will not be soon forgotten.

The lives of two Danish families are intertwined by love, hate, and fate. We begin by following Anton, played by Mikael Persbrandt as he plies his skills as a doctor at an African refugee camp. The distance between his work and his home in Denmark creates an even greater distance between him and his estranged wife and his bullied son Elias. Elias finally makes a friend in Christian, a lad who has just moved to the idyllic town with his father after his mother lost her battle with cancer. Desperate for a friend, Elias will follow the angry and hurting Christian anywhere.

Director Susanne Bier brings the story to the screen with a mix of subtlety, in the intense yet understated performances given even by the child actors, and also pat climaxes, as the third act dwindles slightly into predictable and melodramatic territory. That is not to take away from the beauty of the complex and carefully constructed screenplay by Anders Thomas Jensen. Simply reading the script would surely be an emotionally potent experience on its own.

The wonderful high contrast photography is sumptuous to behold, and Bier makes poignant symbolic use of landscapes and scenery throughout. The occasional use of crash zooms, especially early in the film, is not always effective, but jump cuts are put to good use, and the gentle music fits perfectly, bringing another layer of richness to the picture.

Unexpected moments of humour are slightly jarring yet welcome as they break up the lengthy ruminations on deep and dark dilemmas. It’s a film about consequences, revenge and the nature of evil. The sequences set in the African camp are sparsely scattered throughout the narrative, and serve as a parallel story highlighting to a more extreme extent the messages that the filmmakers want to leave the audience with. The effect of this is measured and shocking but ultimately condescending.

Part family drama, part thematic sermon, In a Better World has a lot to say about forgiveness, tolerance and grief. At one point a character cries out “I don’t know how to make everything right again!” A clichéd line maybe, but one to which many hearts in the audience might mutter “You can say that again”. Forgiveness is key, yet it is one of the most difficult things to do. Until a better world comes along we have to deal with this one, and films like this serve as a reminder that it is worthwhile to do so.


Peter D. Marsay

 
I'm a filmmaker based in London, freelancing as a cameraman, camera assistant, editor, writer & director. I have a Sony HXR-NX5 camera, camera assistant kit & Final Cut Pro 7 edit suite.