Dir: Kristian Levring. UK-Denmark. 2002. 110mins
Danish expatriate Kristian Levring's follow-up to his Dogme-film The King Is Alive is a companion piece in every sense, visually, emotionally and thematically. Even if this sombre drama is more straightforward than its predecessor (it was shot using more conventional methods of film-making than the infamous manifesto), it will most likely appeal to the same arthouse audience and buyers which hankered after Levring's previous work, and as such is likely to replicate its box office. Janet McTeer and Tony Maudsley deliver standout performances, while the gloomy yet visually impressive film establishes Levring yet again as a film-maker with a highly personal style and vision. IFC Films has US rights, while Momentum Pictures will handle the film, which premiered in the Contemporary World Cinema sidebar at Toronto, for the UK.
An establishing helicopter shot over thick Malaysian jungle, music and the historic setting (1924) confirms that The Intended is not a Dogme film. The story follows a couple newly arrived at a trading post on the Menkuang River, a tropical stream that dries up for months at a time. Hamish Winslow (Feild) is an eager young surveyor hired to map a path through the jungle, his companion - and intended of the title - is his older fiancee, Sarah (McTeer).
Their new employer and ruler of the small community is the stern Mrs Jones (Fricker), who is blunt about the hardship of the task at hand, ruling over a small band of non-natives. They include her nephew and right-hand man, Norton (Jackson), and her man-child of a son William (Maudsley), still looked after - and literally 'given a hand' - by his nanny (Olympia Dukakis).
Distrust, hate and power struggle is the order of the day, but the couple has to settle in, as they have no money to leave: indeed they too are on the run from their past. Their situation worsens when William finds his mother's hidden stash of money and overhears her saying that she might let the nephew take over the business. The feud causes bloodshed and spins the group into further paranoia before heading towards a doomed ending.
The oppressive atmosphere and constant pressure on the main characters makes The Intended far from pleasant viewing, but the story adds some surprising layers to its characters, who are presented as more than mere black-and-white stereotypes. Director Levring wrote the scripts with McTeer, which is underlined by her gripping performance as the haunted Sarah, while Dukakis and newcomer Maudsley are equally impressive.
Visually, The Intended is as striking as Levring's The King Is Alive, although it utilises a slightly different colour scheme, despite Danish cinematographer Jens Schlosser shooting both films. The digital video images looks best in the close-ups: wider shots suffer from the grainy video quality.
Prod co: Parallax Independent, Produktionsselskabet, Project Inc
Int'l sales: The Works
Exec prods: Bob Berney, Sally Hibbin
Prod: Malene Blenkov, Patricia Kruijer
Scr: Kristian Levring, Janet McTeer
Cinematography: Jens Schlosser
Ed: Nicholas Wayman Harris, Andrew John McClelland
Prod des: Lars Nielsen
Music: Matthew Herbert
Cast: Janet McTeer, Olympia Dukakis, Brenda Fricker, Tony Maudsley, JJ Feild, Philip Jackson