In a Better World – Captivating Danglish Film

We wouldn’t be surprised in the least if our readers, schmucks as many of them undoubtedly are, do not recognize the movie title In a Better World.

Since improving your entertainment quotient is our self-inflicted punishment, know it now that In a Better World is a Danish-English-Swedish (or Danglish in our neologism of the day) film that won the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar at the 83rd Academy Awards ceremony in February.

What You Don’t Need

In a Better World is solid testament, particularly to serious filmmakers, that to make a fine movie, you don’t need to be in Hollywood, you don’t need the prop of big stars, you don’t need the crutch of fancy gee-wiz 3D, you don’t need special computer graphics, you don’t need a super-hero going on an inter-galactic voyage and, well, you don’t need a pretty babe lifting her top to flaunt her boobs to all ye drooling noobs.

And you most definitely don’t need a gazillion dollars at your disposal.

To make a nice film, all you need is a competent, committed director like Susanne Bier who knows her movie onions and then you’re off to the Oscar races and box office nirvana.

By the way, In a Better World struck gold at the Golden Globes function too with the film bagging the Best Foreign Language Picture award.

Made on a measly budget of just $5.5 million, far less than what an average Bollywood film costs these days, In a Better World has acquitted itself creditably at the box office having grossed over $10 million so far. Since the DVD released just six days back in the U.S., you may expect the movie’s earnings to jump quite a bit in the coming months.

Baser or Better Instincts

In a Better World showcases both the far too common baser instincts of Man (brutal violence, bullying, revenge, racism and betrayal) and, the far less common, better, softer side of man (love, compassion, non-violence, grief) with equal panache.

After watching the movie, we’re not sure which way is the better path for Man – Payback or turning back on violence? We’ll leave that for you twits to decide.

Separated from his wife, Anton (Mikael Persbrandt) is a doctor working with refugees in an African camp tending to the poor, dispossessed and the victims of a Big Man’s depredations on pregnant women.

Meanwhile, back home his older son Elias (Markus Rygaard) is relentlessly, ruthlessly bullied at school.

A new kid Christian (William Jøhnk Nielsen), who’s just lost his mother to cancer, joins the same school.

Small in stature as he is, Christian is no Elias.

By God, no.

After he encounters a nasty bullying incident, Christian retaliates in brutal fashion with a bicycle air-pump beating the living daylights out of his and Elias’ tormentor.

To no surprise, Christian and Elias become pals. Both are shown to have an absentee father (Christian’s father works in London).

But the duo make for an unlikely pair.

Christian is fueled by rage, mostly sporting a grim visage reflecting the inner volcano churning in him. A rage that breaks out often against his frequently absent father when he visits him.

Elias, on the other hand, is mostly a composed, quiet little fellow and hangs around  Christian with a hangdog expression.

During Anton’s visit home, he’s subject to a needless assault in front of his kids and Christian by a car mechanic over a trivial incident. Anton does not retaliate arguing that to do so is stupid. A point of view that Christian does not definitely share.

In Christian’s Weltanschauung, payback is the only fitting response to any injury. Not to do so would only invite a repeat of the attack, argues the young boy.

Anton returns to Africa but the assault incident is not forgotten back home. Nor can the audience forget the vicious antics of Big Man in Africa and the fatal payback he receives when Anton ejects him from the makeshift hospital camp.

Payback, violence and revenge, it seem, are universal impulses unconstrained by race, age, country or continent.

Back home, Christian  and, under his goading, Elias, plan a nasty retribution for the assault on Anton with horrifying unintended consequences for all involved.

Thanks to the deft direction of Susanne Bier, the story (written by Anders Thomas Jensen) moves from a small town in Denmark to the refugee camp in Africa and back effortlessly, smoothly.

All Round Fine Acting

William Jøhnk Nielsen playing the rage-filled, defiant Christian, Markus Rygaard as the diffident, bullied Elias and Mikael Persbrandt as the caring doctor Anton deliver fine, moving performances that make this film a joy to watch.

Accustomed as we are to non-acting by grownup Indians (Salman Khan, Abhishek Bachchan, Shahrukh Khan, Akshay Kumar ad nauseam, ad infinitum), to watch kids like William Jøhnk Nielsen and Markus Rygaard do a stellar job warms the cockles that at least in some corners of the world the acting flame still burns bright.

In a Better World richly deserved the Oscar, the Golden Globe and other encomiums heaped on it.

Readers of the fine blog will, of course, recognize Susanne Bier as the director of the After the Wedding, a Danish movie we reviewed a couple of years back.

In a Better World is on DVD at Netflix should you feel inclined to step away from the noxious dung-heap of Indian garbage like Bodyguard or Mankatha.

Your favorite blog strongly recommends In a Better World to all you schmucks.

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