Monday, 15 August 2011

In a better world

I have seen a really good movie called In a better world. This film deals with violence, revenge spriral evil and its consequences. From horrible abuse of women in African refugee camps to brutal bullying in the schoolyard in a Danish smalltown. As in the director Susanne Bier's previous films this deals with heavy topics to an everyday level, but always without any sentimentality.

Mikael Persbrant plays doctor Anton who volunteer in the third world sometimes as a way to get away from his broken marriage at home.
His twelve year old son Elijah walk with heavy steps to school every day because of his harassers to classmates who bully him. One day a boy called Christian begins in Elias class, he recently lost his mother in cancer and carries a tremendous sadness, anger and frustration over his family situation with an absent father. Christian cling to the bullied Elias and whips the shit out of the biggest bully of them all with a bicycle pump.

These young boys are developing a dangerous friendship built on anger against injustice and Elijah's blind faith in his first real friend. Schoolyard conflicts end up soon on the parents' table. Elijah´s father Anton is preaching to him about turning the other cheek to a head when a local bully gives him a slap infront of the kids. Anton's habit to stay out of conflicts from Africa is completely alien from the rooster of the boys have learned in the schoolyard. Christian's father, Claus tries to explain that violence begets violence, that is how wars start, but the ball is already set in motion.

The acting is very natural and you get touched by the strong characters. The strongest of all the child actors, is especially William Jøhnk Nielsen, who plays Christian. What strikes me is how incredible similar Christian is a young Christian Bale in Empire of the sun. Both in appearance and facial expressions.

Susanne Bier describes the conflicts behind the home's walls and the major topics in family life in a very clever way. The story feels like moving straight through, leaving virtually no one untouched. The film works well as a good basis for discussions about school violence and fear as it methodically draws parallels between the violence in Africa and what happens on our school yards.


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