Director: Tobias Lindholm
Writer: Tobias Lindholm
Cast: Pilou Asbæk, Tuva Novotny, Dar Salim, Alex Høgh Andersen, Søren Malling, Charlotte Munck, Dulfi Al-Jabouri, Jakob Frølund, Phillip Sem Dambæk
Seen on: 26.4.2016
Claus (Pilou Asbæk) is a company commander currently stationed in Afghanistan with his troup and his best friend and co-commander Najib (Dar Salim). Claus’ wife Maria (Tuva Novotny) is home in Denmark with their two children and all are anxiously waiting for his return. After one of Claus’ men dies due to a landmine, Claus decides to take a more active part in the patrols his company is responsible for. During one of those patrols, the company is attacked and Claus gives the orders he feels are necessary in this situation. But shortly afterwards he finds himself in front of a war court who doubt him and his decisions.
Krigen pulls off a very difficult balance: focusing entirely on the soldiers, it manages to capture both the high pressure and the comradery they experience while not letting them of the hook for decisions they make. There’s a fine line between glorification and damnation when it comes to the military – and Krigen walks it well, providing much fodder for thought.
Krigen takes care to set up its characters, especially Claus. He is basically what you picture when you want to draw up the most positive image of a soldier: he does it for relatable reasons – a mix of believing in the cause, needing the money and being good at it; he worked his way up the ranks; he is a good leader, maybe erring by caring a little too much about his men and too little about himself; he has a lovely family. In short, he’s the ideal soldier when you take soldiers seriously (and not look at it cynically like in Forrest Gump, though admittedly that view isn’t all untrue either).
And then it takes this ideal soldier and puts him in a shitty situation, as situations are bound to get when you’re at war. And then he’s forced to make decisions while being shot at and only having very partial information. As decisions are made when you’re at war. And the impact of those decisions are only visible afterwards – and in this case, it’s bad. Even the best decision he probably could make under the circumstances was a bad decision.
So when the trial starts, the audience is torn: yes, Claus made that decision and that decision turned out to be bad. But does he really deserve to be punished for it? Is it really okay that I want him to get off, even though the prosecution is right about everything they say? When Claus’ men rally around him, is that really ground for cheering? But above all, is justice being served here and if so, for whom? Can one ever expect justice when it comes to war?
Lindholm doesn’t make it easy for the audience. Even the ending that would probably feel like the biggest win in a Hollywood film comes with a stale aftertaste in Krigen. There are no answers in the film. Instead war itself is being called into question.