Wednesday, September 7, 2011


Susanne Bier doesn't mess around.  All of her films are intense and deeply emotional experiences, and of the ones I've seen (Brothers, After the Wedding, Open Hearts, and Things We Lost in the Fire, which I feel is her finest work) she's demonstrated that she's incapable of making a bad film. In a Better World fully deserved its Best Foreign Language Oscar last year, despite a few contrivances/cliches that Bier has mostly avoided thus far in her career.  It's a powerful, multi-continent look at violence within our society and how it affects various cultures. The layered screenplay (co-written by Bier and Andres Thomas Jensen) creates extremely interesting character arcs for all of the major characters, in particular the two pre-teen boys, who are the central focus of the narrative.  The film asks questions that are all around us every day: when is violence warranted, when is it intolerable, and how can we all co-exist when so many of us have totally different viewpoints on life and how to live it?  The biggest difference between In a Better World and her previous work is that Bier's films have all had a very raw, hand-held visual aesthetic which has helped drive home the stories being told.  To say that In A Better World is the prettiest film she's made would be an understatement; there were numerous shots of extreme beauty in the film, which when contrasted with the dark themes being explored, created an interesting juxtaposition of imagery and content.  I'm thinking that's the reason why the film connected so well with the Academy; they like to be reminded of humanity's shortcomings while still looking good for dinner.  Nevertheless, the film is perfectly acted, obviously heartfelt, and another strong piece of work from a filmmaker who I really admire.  

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