High Museum of Art: Films

Danish Film Fest’s Greatest Hits by Linda Dubler

Keep the Danish Film Festival vibe alive at home with these terrific movies featured in past festivals at the High.

Adam’s Apples

The extraordinarily prolific and talented writer/director Anders Thomas Jensen (who wrote Brothers, After the Wedding, Wilbur Wants to Kill Himself, and Stealing Rembrandt, among other pictures) wrote and directed this wry and subversive black comedy. It explores punishment and redemption through the story of Adam, a neo-Nazi youth who’s sentenced to perform community service at rural half-way house. The program is based in a tiny country church and run by Ivan (Mads Mikkelsen), a blindly optimistic priest who excels at turning the other cheek. With rehabilitation in mind, Ivan demands that Adam set a goal — any goal — for himself. Adam’s snide reply — “I’d like to bake an apple pie” — results in a major commitment: he’s assigned the task of guarding an apple tree on the church grounds until the fruit is ripe enough to pick. As he waits out Mother Nature, he has plenty of time to get to know the two other cons — a kleptomaniac who preys on women and an anti-capitalist Afghani immigrant who robs gas stations belonging to multi-nationals — as well as a homeless pregnant woman (Paprika Steen). A dark comedy, even by Danish standards (where it’s not unheard of for suicide and child abuse to be given a bleakly comic twist), Adam’s Apples won three Roberts, Danish cinema’s highest award.

After the Wedding

Susanne Bier is a brilliant director of actors who excels at bringing complex, contradictory characters to the screen. She followed up her gripping drama, Brothers (remade in English by the British director Jim Sheridan, with Tobey Maguire and Jake Gyllenhaal as the warring siblings) with After the Wedding, a haunting exploration of love, deception, and responsibility. At the story’s center is Jacob (the ubiquitous, charismatic Mads Mikkelsen), a Dane living in India who manages a cash-strapped orphanage there. Jacob’s single-minded devotion to the children, including his adopted son, is tested when a potential donor, Jorgen (a dangerously hale and hardy Rolf Lassgard) offers a desperately needed donation only on the condition that Jacob travel to Copenhagen. Reluctantly he agrees, but once back in Denmark discovers that courting Jorgen will involve more than a simple meeting. Pressured into attending the philanthropist’s daughter’s wedding, he dons a tux and drives to the party, where events unfold that will profoundly reshape the future for not only Jacob, but Jorgen and his family as well. In his Los Angeles Times review, Kenneth Turan wrote that “Susanne Bier mainlines emotion. She has a connection to feelings and passions that is as direct and potent as an addict’s needle piercing a vein. Her fierce and compelling dramas . . . serve it up straight, no chaser, and dare anyone to flinch.”

The Monastery: Mr. Vig and the Nun

If the portraits of cranks and obsessives made by documentarists Werner Herzog and Erroll Morris are your cup of tea, then check out The Monastery, an oddly endearing, seriously funny film that offers definitive proof that truth is stranger than fiction. It’s the story of an ornery retired parish priest and confirmed bachelor named Mr. Vig who nurtures the dream of turning the crumbling castle he calls home into a monastery.

The Monastery

This mission  leads him to contact the Russian Orthodox Church, whose officials are intrigued but not entirely sold on the offer. They decide to send out an exploratory force of nuns, led by Sister Amvrosija, a vigorous, determined woman half Vig’s age whose take charge attitude quickly sets her at odds with her host. The battle of wills is on, and director Pernille Rose Gronkjaer captures it in what Eye for Film‘s Andrew Robertson called “a wonderful little film, a delightful portrait of two very different characters . . . a meditation on the nature of faith and desire.”

Just Another Love Story

Of course it’s not. Just Another Love Story is a deliciously convoluted romantic thriller that explores the allure of the unknown and the thrill of assuming a new identity. Its protagonist, Jonas, is a  crime scene photographer who is happy enough with his career, marriage, and fatherhood. Then he’s involved in a car crash. Jonas and his family are unharmed, but the other driver, an emotionally distraught woman named Julia, falls into a coma. When Jonas turns up at the hospital for a visit, her family mistakes him for Julia’s mysterious boyfriend, Sebastian, who she met recently while traveling in Vietnam. Jonas doesn’t correct them, and when Julia awakens, amnesia-ridden and partially blind, she takes Jonas to be her lover, a role he hungrily embraces. But the past has a way of catching up, and as in any noir worth its shadows, it has a bloody grip.

Linda Dubler

1 Comment so far
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Dear JD –

We do not have any film series in June or July. We will have a Dali film series beginning on August 21 which will be posted online shortly.

Thank you,

High Museum of Art

Comment by hmablogmaster

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