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 and 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 into 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 the 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.
Elsker dig for evigt 8.25
eyelights: its powerful performances. its empathy.
eyesores: its editing.
“We were just unlucky. That’s no reason for you to suffer.”
In 1995, Lars Von Trier and Thomas Vinterberg sought an ethos by which motion pictures could be made that would permit filmmakers to maintain the purity of their cinematic visions. To that end, they came up with a series of ten rules which they dubbed “Dogme 95 Manifesto”.
Susanne Bier’s ‘Elsker dig for evigt’ is one of 35 film officially recognized as part of Dogme 95. Released in 2002, the Danish romantic drama revolves around an accident that leaves one man quadriplegic, tearing apart a couple and a family to finally create a new couple.
As can be expected from Dogme 95 films, the picture is a low-budget production that was shot on location, with limited effects and embellishments; it’s presented in a 4:3 ratio and in mono. It’s also largely about plot and performances; it eschews “superficial action”.
Thankfully, the actors were up to the task, serving up naturalesque and poignant performances all around. Mads Mikkelsen is particularly compelling as Niels, the spouse of the woman who hit Joachim and who becomes the sole source of comfort for Cecilie, Joachim’s fiancé.
I had already seen Mikkelsen in ‘Casino Royale‘ when I first saw ‘Elsker dig for evigt’ and was surprised to find him succeeding in a role that demanded so much emotional breadth; though he’s amazing as Le Chiffre, he truly demonstrates what he’s capable of here as Niels.
Interestingly, though he was nominated for a few awards for his performance, he mostly saw his costars win in his stead. Such is the strength of the performances in this picture: ‘Elsker dig for evigt’, Susanne Bier, and the film’s cast won a total of a dozen major awards.
Performances aside, what makes the picture so remarkable is that, though all of its characters make poor choices along the way, they are viewed through an empathetic lens, allowing us to understand and accept them; we are less likely to judge them even when they’re cruel.
For instance, Joachim is a complete @$$hole to anyone he comes in contact with, including Cecilie. At first, knowing how much he loves her, we feel that he’s doing this to allow her to disconnect and move on. But we eventually realize that he’s actually in deep torment.
It doesn’t always make their actions easy to watch but it humanizes them enough that we feel for the person behind the selfish and/or insensitive responses. That the characters were able to confront each other and discuss their personal dramas certainly helps them/us.
We are given further access to their internal lives thanks to a few video inserts that Bier put to contrast the scenes we were watching. From time to time, she would show us glimpses into what her characters were actually thinking and wishing for, instead of what unfolded.
What we’re getting is an intimate look at people who were, at the onset, total strangers, but who could very well be any of us or people around us. And, by the time we get to the end of the picture we fully understand their motivations and are at peace with their decisions.
‘Elsker dig for evigt’ is a remarkable film from that perspective. Though the story would seem mundane on paper, it’s delivered in a way that heightens the material. Between the phenomenal performances and Bier’s savvy directorial choices, it makes for a very human drama.
It’s real life, real people, real drama.
Date of viewing: February 25, 2017