Film: In a Better World
Cast includes: Mikael Persbrandt (Everlasting Moments), William Johnk Nielsen, Ulrich Thomsen (Brothers), Trine Dyrholm (Little Soldier), Markus Rygaard
Director: Susanne Bier (Things We Lost in the Fire)
Genre: Drama (2010) Danish with subtitles
In brief: In the Sudanese refugee camp where he works as a doctor, Anton is like a god. “How are you? How are you?” the kids shout out as they run after his car on the dusty road. He treats a lot of diseases we don’t see in western countries any more. And then there’s the senseless violence… Big Man, the local bully, cuts open the bellies of pregnant women because he makes bets on the sex of the baby. Bullying isn’t just an African phenomenon, though… it can touch anyone, even Anton’s family back home in Denmark.
Aton’s 12-year-old son, Elias, has for too long been the target of the schoolyard bullies, Sofus and his “mafia.” But now that Christian has moved back to Denmark from London, Sofus is happy to share the punishing attacks… both verbal and physical. Telling their parents won’t help… it only makes things worse. But Christian isn’t planning to take the abuse, and Elias is cautiously happy to have a friend, at last. When the two boys take matters into their own hands, the school and the parents have to face the problem head-on. But that’s hardly the end of it. Injustice seems to be everywhere, and angry people can’t just turn their anger on and off.
In a Better World presents us with a lot of questions. But if you’re looking for answers… it’s very true to life… it doesn’t have them. What we see is that anger and violence are universal problems. Even serious attempts by thoughtful people to break the cycle of violence can fall short. There are kernels of hope but the film isn’t about presenting answers. The film style is very naturalistic and feels very real. Anton tries to set a positive example when another father lashes out at him. Anton refuses to fight back. Is he afraid? No. He tells the boys, “He’s a jerk, and if I hit him, I’m a jerk too.” The lesson has mixed results.
3 popped kernels
Well-done social commentary… rather pessimistic
Primary Audience: Grown-ups
Gender Appeal: Any audience
Distribution: Art house
Tempo: In no hurry
Visual Style: Unvarnished realism
Character Development: Engaging
Language: True to life
Social Significance: Thought provoking