Hævnen [In a Better World] (2010)

Hævnen is the newest film by Susanne Bier, written by Anders Thomas Jensen and starring William Jøhnk Nielsen, Markus Rygaard, Mikael Persbrandt, Trine Dyrholm and Ulrich Thomsen.

After the death of his mother, Christian (William Jøhnk Nielsen) and his father Claus (Ulrich Thomsen) move back to Denmark from London. That is, Claus still keeps working there and Christian stays with his grandmother. In his new school he violently defends Elias (Markus Rygaard) who is bullied a lot. Elias’ parents are in the process of getting a divorce – Anton (Mikael Persbrandt) spends most of his time in Africa as a doctor. Both boys feel left alone but strike up a friendship with each other. But Christian’s (self-)destructive tendencies are spiraling out of control.

Hævnen is a very serious movie. It asks Big Questions(TM) about difficult subjects and it does so very well. But all this seriousness gets a little stifling at times and then you wish that they’d just crack a joke. A little one. Please?
That is not to say that it isn’t an excellent film – it is. It’s just so obvious that the people involved decided that they would make foremost an important film. Everything else came second.

The cast was wonderful. Trine Dyrholm already impressed me in Troubled Water and she delivers another wonderful performance here, even though her role is rather small. [Generally this movie is more of a “women are only important when they do something to/with men” film. This is usually quite sexist and extremely annoying, but it was neither in this instance. Though it would definitely have been interesting to get more of a female point of view.]

But more fascinatingly both of the boys were really good. It is so hard to find talented child actors, but Susanne Bier was very successful there. Especially William Jøhnk Nielsen really broke my heart in a couple of scenes.

The movie really gets full marks in pretty much everything except the entertainment value. Now, of course it’s not necessary that every movie has to be completely entertaining at all times. But this makes the movie hard work instead of play and work is pretty exhausting, even if also rewarding.

The questions it asks are important and interesting. And the two boys at the heart of the film are wonderful characters. That alone makes the movie worth seeing.

Summarising: It’s not entertaining, but it’s fantastic.

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