AFF DAY 5: Atlantic Shorts 3 and Submarino

More of what we do well and more Danish drama

Jakob Cedergen and Peter Plaugborg in Submarino

I won’t go on too much about the Atlantic Shorts 3 programme as my esteemed colleague Hillary Titley already commented on it, suffice to say congrats to the group. I especially liked Four Sisters from Newfoundland---though in the interest of full disclosure, a dear friend wrote the screenplay. I also really appreciated Eva Madden-Hagen’s What Remains, the eggy drama of Not Over Easy and Rhonda’s Party... in fact, I enjoyed all of them. Even the ambitious A Dark Radius---how often to we see shorts that are action thrillers?---though beset by some particularly poor cinematography and editing, managed to get its message across about human trafficking.

The 9:30pm screening was a very tough call. Do I go for a music doc in Do It Again, another programme of Atlantic Shorts, Xavier Dolan’s Heartbeats or the Danish drama Submarino? Having had good luck with Suzanne Bier’s In A Better World on Saturday, I chose the second Danish film on the AFF slate, Thomas Vinterberg’s Submarino. Like Bier, Vinterberg is a veteran of the Dogma 95 school of Danish filmmaking---he directed Celebration, the first Dogme picture---though since then he's confounded critics with his choices, including the peculiar sci-fi romance It’s All About Love starring Joaquin Phoenix and Clare Danes and the anti-gun parable Dear Wendy.

His newest film is a bleak tale of inner city family strife and survival. Two Danish brothers are abused by their alcoholic mother. One grows up to be an ex-con alcoholic himself, hanging around with his sometime girlfriend and the brother of his ex-lover, a man who deals with more than a little mental illness and inappropriate behavior towards women. As the booze takes hold, bad decisions makes things worse. With a murder, the film then abruptly switches to the parallel story of the other brother, raising his son alone and dealing with drug addiction. The stories mirror each other both chronologically and emotionally, as we keep hoping these men will reunite, help each other and maybe shake loose the demons of their childhood. This is a grim and unrelenting film in its realism, not an easy one to watch, but well-crafted. And with the Bier film it shares at least one commonality, great performances by child actors.

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