directors have addressed the issues of the past decade as courageously as Denmark’s
Susanne Bier. With the much celebrated Brothers, she raised troubling questions
about the First World’s relationship with the
Third. After the Wedding pursued this
subject further, contrasting the conflicting demands of the domestic and the
societal. Her latest, In a Better World,
a Special Presentation at the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival®
and winner of the 2011 Academy Award® for Best Foreign Film, explores
similar terrain while offering a devastating critique of masculinity.
In a war-torn African nation, physician Anton
(Mikael Persbrandt, Everlasting Moments) confronts a steady stream of
tragedy and loss. Much of what he faces can be traced back to a vicious and
sadistic local warlord. Back home in Denmark, his estranged wife Marianne
(Trine Dyrholm, Troubled Water, The
Celebration), is concerned about their eldest son, Elias, who is picked on
mercilessly by the class bully, Sofus.
When new kid Christian arrives in class, he
and Elias bond over a mutual hatred of Sofus. Surly and vicious since the loss
of his mother, Christian is hardening into a rigid and ferocious manifestation
of masculinity. His heartbroken father, Claus (Ulrich Thomsen, Adam’s Apples, The Celebration), is
finding it impossible to cope with Christian’s behaviour. The volatile
situation is exacerbated by Anton’s return home and by an encounter between
Anton, Elias, Christian and a violent, bullying mechanic (Kim Bodnia, Pusher).
At the heart of the film is the issue of male
responsibility, specifically what it means to stand up for oneself and others.
Far more than a mere exercise in suspense, In
a Better World raises essential questions about human instincts and our
interpretation of knowing what's right and what's wrong.
“Bathed in a golden
light that contrasts with the film’s dark emotional currents, In a Better World brilliantly dramatizes
the vexing problem of trying to do right in a world of situational ethics” – Peter Howell, The Toronto Star