IN A BETTER WORLD
Director: Susanne Bier
Screenwriters: Anders Thomas Jensen based on a story in collaboration with Susanne Bier
William Jøhnk Nielsen
Tors Lars Bjarke
Runtime: 119 mins.
Australian release date: 31 March 2011
Susanne Bier’s film, In a Better World, is a morality tale that poses the question - is the use of violence ever justified? It canvasses two stories to make this deep philosophical question human and it ultimately questions the desire for revenge, asking whether it is innate in human nature.
One of Sweden’s most charismatic actors, Mikael Persbrandt plays a doctor, Anton, working under the harshest conditions, face-to-face with daily death and terror in a refugee camp in Sudan. Anton is in the midst of a separation from his wife, Marianne (Trine Dyrholm), back home in Denmark; their son, Elias (Markus Rygaard), is being bullied at school and is defended by a new arrival from London, Christian (William Jøhnk
Nielsen); Christian’s father, Claus (Ulrich Thomsen), is trying to care for his son, who is still coming to terms with the recent death of his mother from cancer. If this sounds a little ‘soapy,’ don’t be fooled - it’s anything but. The bullying becomes a significant thread throughout the story and is the weft of Bier’s analysis of the choices between revenge and forgiveness.
The locations swing between the African refugee camp and an ordinary provincial town in Denmark. These places stand as metaphors for the dilemmas facing society, both on the foreign and the domestic fronts. Parallels can also be made with Bier’s recent works, Brothers and After the Wedding.
The performances are all solid and thoroughly watchable as the tense, unrelenting drama unfolds. Anders Thomas Jensen’s script cements his successful collaboration with Biers, having worked with her on Open Hearts, Brothers and After the Wedding. The artistic triumvirate is completed with Morten Søborg's cinematography, which encapsulates the harsh African exposure and the more suffused Northern Hemisphere light.
Bier is considered one of the most prominent directors in Denmark. It is not surprising that In a Better World won both the Golden Globe and Foreign Language Film Oscar this year. If you are interested in an intelligent observation of the conflicts which face our society and that of the developing world i.e. order versus disorder, then this is definitely worth the experience. It helps to fuel the debate surrounding the idea that ‘if’ things were different ‘then’ perhaps we would live in a better world…