Thursday, January 26, 2012

30 Days of Oscar Day 2: In a Better World

Movie: In a Better World
Year: 2010
Nominations: Best Foreign film (Denmark)
Wins/Snubs: Won Best Foreign film.  Beat out Dogtooth, Biutiful, Incendies, and Outside the Law

I saw Biutiful in theaters and heard and read a lot about both Dogtooth and Incendies.  This is probably the most of a foreign language category I've ever known.  Now that I've seen In a Better World, I'm pretty sure they got it right.  I really liked this film.  

It's two intersecting stories linked by one character.  The first follows two boys who live a really crappy existence (though both have successful parents who barely leave them alone).  Christian has just lost his mother and been brought by his dad from London to Denmark to live with this grandmother.  He meets Elias, who has been taunted ("Rat Face") every day and his bike tires flattened every day.  Christian has a lot of rage and decides to do something to stop the bullying.  The bullying does stop, but it does show something about Christian that Elias is a little unsure about (*cough* sociopath).  

The parallel story follows Elias' father, Anton, who is a doctor working in a refugee camp in Africa (I don't think they say, but it looks like Sudan).  He sees the worst kinds of tragedies - particularly the victims of a "warlord" who likes to bet on the sex of pregnant women's babies and cuts them open to find out.  Anton is trying to be a good doctor and help this.  And this work has given him perspective on the world that makes it hard for him to relate to his family when he goes back to Denmark.  He tries to impart to his sons, and Christian what it is to rise above bullies, but Christian can only see hurting them so they won't hurt you.  

This movie is really powerful, and well crafted.  You don't have too much handed to you or spelled out, but the message comes across well and the parallels are there to be drawn.  I can see how it wouldn't work for some people, but I really enjoyed it and think it deserved it's Golden Globe and Oscar.  

1 comment:

Ryan McNeil said...

If someone told me that it didn't work for them, I'd actually be quite surprised. A lot like the foreign film that I wrote about today (A SEPARATION), the themes of this film are I'd imagine people would be able to connect with it quite easily.

Something I was a bit surprised that you didn't go further into was how stunning all of the photography in Africa was. It actually left me a bit bummed that more of the film wasn't set there.

The theme of bullying is of course truly timely, and I love the way this film shows that taking the reigns and standing your ground isn't an answer either. As that final act shows us, coming up with the answer can be truly tricky.

Great film, but perhaps I'm a bit biased in liking INCENDIES more.