Tuesday, September 11, 2012


Cine Europa 2012
Cinema 2, Shang Cineplex

The opening scenes of this film from Denmark is in a remote African refugee camp.  Anton is a doctor and he treats villagers who are mostly the victims of a brutal warlord known simply as the "Big Man."    A vicious gang leader who hacks open the bellies of pregnant women as he places bets on them by guessing the gender of their unborn babies.   The setting of the vast African land laden with orange sands is quite rustic but quite vivid with the colorful attires of the villagers.  Life is quite dire both for the villagers as well as for the lone Caucasian surgeon.

But Anton does on occasion return to Denmark for some R & R.  A place you like to believe is a better world but we soon find out, it isn't exactly the case. Anton's marriage is on the rocks as his wife is seeking a divorce while his son Elias is constantly bullied in school.   Enter Christian, a new student in Elias' school. He  along with his father recently relocated to Denmark from London after Christian's mother died of cancer.

The young boys soon become friends after Christian rescues Elias from the school bully.  The two boys have contrasting personalities.  Elias is meek and mostly keeps to himself while Christian is a fighter who likes to stand up for people who cannot defend themselves.  In their idyllic Danish town, their odd friendship thrives but soon enough a conflict arises which will test the true mantle of their friendship. 

"In a Better World" is a realistic portrayal of the tribulations that  plague modern society. Bullying, the use of violence as retribution for revenge, the widening communication gap, and the effects of divorce on young children. It also clearly exposes the estranged relationship that develops between parents who work too much and their children who grow up with an aching sense of isolation and in some rare cases, a sense of abandonment. These very troubling ills of society lead to a gamut of problems both for the parents and the kids. 

The film tackles all these sensitive issues well within its range that spans for almost 2 hours. An ideal cinematography aids in the narration of the inner conflicts faced by the young boys as well as their distant parents. Desperate parents who try their best to reach out to their kids but much to their chagrin, they fail with every feeble step. Their anguish is gut wrenching as the children cannot seem to properly communicate what really troubles them without coming across as failures. 

Danish filmmaker Susanne Bier specializes in melodramas that manifest profound depths of emotion. She gets the audience to identify with her ordinary characters who are suddenly thrust into moral quandaries from everyday occurrences.  She also has a penchant to depict international stories in 3rd world countries such as her other noteworthy film "After the Wedding" which featured an orphanage in India.

No wonder "In a Better World" won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film in 2010, it has all the key elements of a high quality film.

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