Synopsis: What happens when fate suddenly snaps its fingers and turns life upside down at a stroke. This is the central question Danish director Susanne Bier poses ad attempts to answer in her new feature OPEN HEARTS made according to the Dogme rules. A young couple is looking forward to their wedding when an accident befalls them. You think your biggest problem today is going to get the shopping done and suddenly your fiancé gets run over. It’s like a blade in your life, for better and for worse. The “worse” is the event as it takes place, the better is what happens afterwards.
OPEN HEARTS is a film about promises we cannot keep and the life we cannot plan. It is a film about life, true love and the responsibility for the people we love.
There’s not much to be said about ‘Open Hearts’. It’s a story of infidelity like many others, like many that you’ve already seen countless times before.
Except for a few things.
For starters, it was made under Dogme 95 rules. By these rules, the film is extremely limited in the way it’s filmed and presented, focusing mostly on plot and performance.
Secondly, and this is related to the first point, the acting in here is quite strong. In fact, the whole film rides on the actors’ ability to provide natural, credible performances. Personally, I was completely mesmerized by Mads Mikkelsen, who plays a doctor who throws away his family life for the passionate embrace of another woman. I can’t explain it, but he totally owned the screen. Having said this, all of the actors were exceptionally good – so the Dogme 95 rules bore fruit here.
Thirdly, the film is filled with unusual touches, such as choppy editing that doesn’t hide the fact that multiple takes were used, a jarringly out-of-place soundtrack that blasts over the film in certain key moments (this breaks Dogme 95 rule, I should note), and little moments when we are shown a character’s inner wish in lieu of what reality offers them. These moments are filmed with a different style, both distinguishing them and giving them a surreal quality. I quite liked it.
But, otherwise, it’s a drama that’s kept just out of bounds of the melodramatic manoeuvres other films would fall prey to. It’s heavy, perhaps even depressingly so, but it feels entirely believable, as though the filmmakers had captured real life (for example, not everything comes off cleanly and is explained clearly – just like real life). And I thought that the characters were each afforded a certain amount of dignity even in the face of total emotional turmoil; we didn’t have to contend with the usual BS that infidelity usually entails, like tantrums, revenge, …etc.
Above all, though, ‘Elsker dig for evigt’ is worth it for the performances alone. It shouldn’t be an easy watch, but I found it so effortless because it was pulled together so well by the formidable cast, who managed to make their characters flawed, but not irredeemably so.
Even if you don’t like foreign films, drama, or are tired of the same old song and dance, I would suggest taking a look at ‘Open Hearts’ with an open mind. The odds are quite good that you won’t be disappointed.