• RECENT FESTIVAL REVIEWS Love Me No More
Wild Combination: A Portrait of Arthur Russell
The Wrong Mr. Johnson
All Reviews >> To Verdener (Denmark)
A Nordisk Film production. (International sales: Nordisk Film, Valby, Denmark.) Executive producer, Kim Magnusson. Produced by Thomas Heinesen. Directed by Niels Arden Oplev. Screenplay, Steen Bille, Oplev.
With: Rosalinde Mynster, Pilou Asbaek, Jens Jorn Spottag, Sarah Boberg, Anders W. Berthelsen.
By ALISSA SIMON
A teen raised as a Jehovah's Witness falls in love with a non-believer and is forced to choose between b.f. and rigidly observant family who are, figuratively speaking, "Worlds Apart." Based on a true story, this provocative, well-turned drama by Danish helmer Niels Arden Oplev ("We Shall Overcome") raises universally pertinent questions about fundamentalist thinking without portraying Witnesses' beliefs as inherently crazy or evil. Intriguing subject matter combined with charismatic perfs by the two young leads might attract niche arthouse play, with further action in ancillary. Material also seems ripe for U.S remake.
Outgoing, attractive Sara Dahl (17-year-old newcomer Rosalinde Mynster , a natural) is devoted to her family and ardent about her faith. She proselytizes door-to-door with fellow congregants, preaching about Judgment Day and eternal salvation for Jehovah's chosen ones.
But all's not well in the Dahl household. Her hotel receptionist father Andreas ( Jens Jorn Spottag , a dead ringer for U.S. presidential candidate Mike Huckabee ) has committed a carnal sin, splitting the family apart. However, the kids feel it's worse that mother ( Sarah Boberg ) won't forgive him since he has sincerely repented.
When Sara meets Teis ( Pilou Asbaek , strong) at a club, a powerful attraction blooms. But almost immediately, their relationship challenges the foundations of her worldview.
Although minister John (Anders W. Berthelsen, intense) reminds Sara of Witness dogma, heart and hormones prove stronger. One of pic's most wrenching scenes depicts despondent Sara asked by John and church elders for explicit details of her sexual activity.
According to Arden Oplev, the script, co-written with Steen Bille , condenses events that actually occurred over several years in real life into just a few months in the film. The loneliness and isolation of those expelled from the Witnesses comes through loud and clear without any sensationalizing, as does the comfort of having something clear to believe in.
With exception of the always good Berthelsen, adult thesps aren't as convincing as the younger actors. Non-showy widescreen lensing by Lars Vestergaard supports the intimacy of the perfs with crisp closeups. Rest of tech package is pro.
Camera (color, Super 16-to-35mm, widescreen), Lars Vestergaard; editor, Anne Osterud ; music, Jacob Groth ; sound ( Dolby Digital SRD), Peter Schultz . Reviewed at Gothenburg Film Festival (Nordic Film Market), Feb. 1, 2008. (Also in Berlin Film Festival -- Generation 14plus.) Running time: 108 MIN.