Dir: Susanne Bier. Den. 2004. 110mins
The consequences of love and the personal trauma ofglobal conflict prove a potent combination in Brothers. The latestcollaboration between Open Hearts director Susanne Bier and screenwriterAnders Thomas Jensen takes the stuff of cheap melodrama and transforms it intoa heartfelt human drama.
Once again their collaboration is distinguished by anacute eye for small, telling details and the fabric of ordinary lives tornapart by unexpected developments. The mix of filmmakers and actors make this asurefire attraction domestically with the possibility that it should equal ifnot surpass the global returns achieved by Open Hearts.
The film, for which Connie Nielsen and Ulrich Thomsenwon the best actor and actress prizes at San Sebastian at the weekend, hasalready been sold to Solo Film (Germany), Swift Productions (France), SevillePictures (Canada), New World Films (Spain), Shani Films (Israel) and TeodoraFilm (Italy) among others.
In Open Hearts, a sudden, tragic accident changed one couple's future in an instant.Here, a husband's assumed death in Afghanistan threatens cataclysmic change.Michael (Thomsen) is a major in the Danish army who is sent to Afghanistan aspart of a United Nations mission. On the day of his departure, his misfitbrother Yannick (Kass) is released from prison.
Yannick is treated by everyone as the black sheep ofthe family whilst Michael is the favourite; a dependable family man with twochildren and a beautiful wife Sarah (Nielsen). Then, Michael's helicopter isshot down and he is reported as killed in action.
It is Yannick who surprises everyone by rising to themoment, comforting Sarah and the children, finding work, taking responsibilityfor their safety and comfort. Naturally, the shared grief leads to a romancewith Sarah. Neither can know that Michael is not dead but held captive andwilling to go to extraordinary lengths to be reunited with his family.
The story effectively tilts the balance of sympathyaway from Michael towards Yannick and back again. Michael's death allowsYannick to be the man he cannot be when Michael is present. Michael's abilityto kill for survival leaves him traumatised and unable to merely pick up thepieces of his previous life. War may sometimes seem something that happens ontelevision or in newspapers but here it is felt on a real and personal level.
Using handheld camerawork and extreme close-ups tocreate an intimacy with the characters, Bier makes Brothers an involvingtale of individuals facing the repercussions of violent, random acts.
A veteran of Bier's Open Hearts, Nikolaj LieKass has a more substantial role here and is so comfortable within thecharacter that audiences can't help but empathise with his frustrations andtorn loyalties. Thomsen is equally impressive as a man who does everything hecan for the people he loves only to find himself rejected.
In her first Danish language film, Danish-bornNielsen matches the depth of feeling shown by her co-stars and clearly relishesa more demanding role than American cinema has been able to provide in Mission To Mars, Basic or TheHunted.
Prod co: Zentropa Productions, Two Brothers Ltd
Int'l sales: Trust Film Sales
Exec prod: Peter Garde
Prods: Sisse GraumJorgensen, Peter Aalbaek Jensen
Scr: Anders Thomas Jensen basedon a story by Susanne Bier and Jensen
Cine: Morten Soborg
Prod des: Viggo Bentzon
Ed: Pernille Bech Christensen
Music: Johan Soderqvist
Main cast: Connie Nielsen, UlrichThomsen, Nikolaj Lie Kaas, Sarah Juel Werner, Rebecca Logstrup Soltau