In spite of other competing more notable films,
Biutiful for instance, In A Better World
won the 2011 Best Foreign Language Film at this years
Academy Awards surprising many people.
The film now gets its English release, from Axiom
Films, and it is a compelling picture full of ideas
and theories about violence and pacifism.
Anton (Mikael Persbrandt) works for Medecins Sans
Frontieres in a war-torn country of Africa, where he
regularly treats pregnant women who are mutilated by a
warlord who bets on the sex of the foetus before
birth. When said warlord himself becomes
injured, should the good doctor treat a man who has
killed a woman he could not save. Such moral
dilemmas abound in this film.
Our good doctor is currently separated from his
beautiful wife, Marianne (Trine Dyrholm) yet remains
close to his children. His youngest, Elias
(Markus Rygaard) is being bullied at school and only
finds refuge through the friendship of the new boy,
Christian (William Johnk Nielsen) who confronts and
stands up to the bully.
Anton then encounters a local ruffian who slaps him in
front of the children. His passivity to the
attack, and his argument that if he fights back he is
but merely the equal of this lout, serves notice to
the children. And yet here is where the films
message becomes hazy - violence begets violence, and
the case is made clear by young Christian's actions
where the innocent get injured.
However, for all the moral quandry and minefield of
social troubles, the film remains a brilliantly acted
film by a sterling cast who although spending a lot of
the time in humdrum poses do exhibit a warmth when
required. Susanne Bier constructs a telling
observation of the slowly decaying nuclear family -
all of the characters are touched by abandonment,
divorce and/or death, and yet Bier has a track record
in deconstructing family relationships - After The
Wedding (2006), Brothers (2004)
The cinematography by Morten Soborg of both the harsh
desert in Africa and the lush countryside of suburbia
in Denmark is shot expertly and gives a real stillness
to proceedings in contrast to the many questions
abounding on screen.
Given greater credence following the tragic events in
the neighbouring Scandanavian country of Norway, In A
Better World shows that violence may well get results
but ultimately it is the last resort when
communication breaks down, or violence is a sign of
weakness of the socially inept.
The original title of the film Haeven may look like
Heaven, but is in fact 'Revenge', the filmmakers
cleverly chose a better English-language title - as
the sheer optimism of its title means an audience
familiar with Bier's oeuvre will guarantee an arthouse