A War (2015) | Krigen | Venice Film Festival 2015
Director | Writer: Tobias Lindholm
Cast: Pilou Asbaek, Tuva Novotny, Soren Malling, Dar Salim, Dulfi Al-Jabouri, Alex Hogh Andersen
110min Drama Denmark
Tobias Lindholm’s sober, realist and human study of a Danish officer serving in Afghanistan generates the same slow-burning power as A Highjacking, his previous thriller. There are no gimmicks here; and no tricky endings. The straight, linear narrative poses an honest question: what is an ordinary Danish soldier doing fighting a war thousands of miles away that has nothing to do with Denmark?
And there are no winners in this war, only losers. And how can anyone, in the cold light of a Copenhagen day, hope to understand the real issues facing commanding officers under pressure to follow orders while keeping their men safe, as well as defending a civilian population from a different culture who face danger from their own people, The Taliban.
Somehow this modest arthouse indie that focuses on ethical and moral dilemmas manages to generate more simmering tension than most other war ‘epics’ from the other side of the Atlantic that have attempted to blow our minds – and their own budgets.
Claus Petersen (Pilou Asbaek from A Highjacking) is a Danish company commander in his mid thirties with a wife and three young kids. Drafted to Afghanistan, he is in charge of a small troop who quickly become his own family: they spend every hour in close proximity getting to know one another, through thick and thin. Back home, his own family strive to life a normal life as his wife Maria (Tuva Novotny) struggles with their kids. The two narrative strands move in tandem, often comparing the dangers in the field with the stresses back home: this may seem far-fetched and ridiculous, but to those involved, their daily life is every bit as vital and pressurised: a soldier could get his arm blown off; a kid could swallow a plastic toy. Essentially a peace-keeping force, the Danish band are fully aware that they could die at any moment and this danger strikes quietly but brutally in the opening minutes of the film. Their protegés are not their friends – and could potentially be their lethal enemies. Although they have a duty of care to Afghans, they cannot offer them shelter from the Taliban in their own quarters.
When one day a particularly demoralised soldier takes a bullet in the neck, Petersen makes a decision that will lead to serious legal consequences – in a similar vein to Mads Mikkelsen’s character Lucas in The Hunt, another of Lindholm’s screenplays. Here, under pressure on moral grounds, Petersen must fight his corner in a testing courtroom in Copenhagen with the same integrity and serious commitment as he did in the battlefields of Afghanistan. MT
NOW ON GENERAL RELEASE | REVIEWED AT VENICE FILM FESTIVAL RUNS UNTIL 12 SEPTEMBER 2015