Tag: thure lindhardt

Flame & Citron

Flame & Citron (2008)
★★★ / ★★★★

Bent Faurschou-Hviid (Thure Lindhardt) and Jørgen Haagen Schmith (Mads Mikkelsen), known as Flame and Citron, join the Holger Danske resistance group during the Nazi takeover of Copenhagen. Under the command of Aksel Winther (Peter Mygind), a police solicitor, who claims to have connections with the British Intelligence, Flame and Citron carry out assassinations of both important Nazi officials and those believed to be working for them. Although the tasks appear to be straightforward and the duo are good at what they do, Bent meeting a woman named Ketty Selmer (Stine Stengade) becomes a catalyst for distractions and doubts toward their superiors.

Directed by Ole Christian Madsen, “Flammen & Citronen” traverses the very fine line between the Nazi occupation and the romanticizing of a dark time in history. It is executed with elegance and high level of watchability which creates a highly compelling experience.

Part of the anticipation is reflected by the events that occur on screen. As someone who does not know much about the real people from which the protagonists are based upon, I wondered if or when they would fall into the booby traps of bureaucracies within their group as well as the inner turmoil they grapple with as the lines between right and wrong in connection to the killings they commit begin to blur. The other part is whether the picture will slip toward inappropriateness by idealizing or diminishing the horrors of World War II through beautiful images, like the fine details of someone’s clothing or how smoke from a cigarette dances around the unsaid.

Despite a bright cinematography, the film simmers with paranoia. The presence of the Gestapo is a threat that looms with the scenes set outdoors. Bent being on the Most Wanted list by the Nazis, he does not exactly blend in with his red hair. We get the feeling that a well-informed member of the party might go up to him at any time, start asking the right questions, and it will all be over. Indoors is not a place of comfort either. Although the resistance has secret meetings, there is always a possibility that there is a traitor in their midst. Suspicions are amplified when Bent goes up to Ketty, introduces himself under a pseudonym, but she just happens to know his real name.

The casting proves paramount if we are to believe the hard and soft sides of Bent and Jørgen. Lindhardt and Mikkelsen have the right look. Observing their physical statures and ability to cast piercing glares at a moment’s notice, it is easy to believe that their characters are very intelligent and can kill on command. I liked that the director provides the necessary close-ups prior to an execution because the technique communicates that duo are not machines. They are people who must set aside the black-and-white definitions of right and wrong temporarily and perform an action for the benefit of their country as well as their personal beliefs about the Nazis and the war.

On the other hand, the actors are equally capable of playing the opposite side of the spectrum in terms of delivering emotions in order to make their characters more human. Of particular importance is the subplot involving Jørgen’s feelings of shame, frustration, and anger for not being able to provide for his wife and daughter. These same feelings complement his attitudes toward the nature of what he does for the cause. He finds being there for his family and fighting for his country rewarding, but the two almost have a parasitic relationship.

With its level of work, “Flame and Citron,” written by Lars Andersen and Ole Christian Madsen, might have had more impact if it had been a six- to eight-hour miniseries. It feels like it has plenty more stories to tell because each new character that graces the screen offers a specific perspective. In the attempt to get them all into its limited two-hour mark, details are introduced and taken out just as quickly which breed slight confusion. Despite this shortcoming, however, the material remains riveting.

Keep the Lights On

Keep the Lights On (2012)
★★ / ★★★★

In 1998, Erik (Thure Lindhardt), a documentary filmmaker, meets Paul (Zachary Booth), a lawyer, through a phone sex line. They meet up, have sex, and decide that what they have might be worth pursuing on a more intimate level. But Paul has a secret: he has a habit of smoking crack cocaine. By 2000, this habit has grown into an addiction so ferocious, Paul does not come home or call for days. Erik cares for Paul so much that he feels it is his responsibility to hang on even if it becomes increasingly clear that their relationship is no longer worth salvaging.

“Keep the Lights On,” based on the screenplay by Ira Sachs and Mauricio Zacharias, has a fascinating story about love and self-sacrifice that is untethered to sexual orientation despite its gay characters and their chosen lifestyles, but its style hinders it from becoming a truly special film. It feels as though we are only given half of the story which is problematic when we are asked to identify, relate, and empathize with its subjects.

The story takes place over a span of eight years. Since it strives to be an intimate drama, I would have preferred it to have had a longer running time given its scope. However, it runs for less than two hours which means sacrifices in terms of details must be made. It is counterintuitive because intimate dramas, if done right, tend to grow all the more beautiful and encompassing the more detail we asked to wade through. Its chosen style of storytelling makes for an uneasy viewing given that it jumps forward in time without much warning. Instead of being enveloped in the experience of Erik and Paul’s struggle, we are often left orienting ourselves and asking questions like whether a couple of days or months have passed since the scene that has just ended.

The initial phases of the relationship are mostly absent. They are provided to us in mere glimpses and so when later dialogue such as, “We had some good times together, didn’t we?” My brows wrinkled from the strain of trying to come up with an example. While it is not necessary to have everything spelled out for the audience, we must be able to be on the characters’ wavelengths during important moments of discovery. Since we are not given the chance to really appreciate the building blocks of the relationship, when the inevitable conflicts arrive, they are consistently difficult to buy into completely.

This is not to suggest that the acting is in any way subpar. On the contrary, Lindhardt and Booth seem capable of doing or projecting more despite the limitations of the film’s style. While Booth somehow still manages to look good despite his character’s drug addiction, I liked that I kept wondering if Paul felt ashamed for being enslaved to highs that quickly go away. Meanwhile, Lindhardt injects a sensitive ferociousness to Erik. The character made me question, if I were in a similar situation, how much I would able or willing to put up with. The love that he gives to Paul is significantly more than what he receives. It is unfair and it inspires us to be angry and frustrated of what the partners have or no longer have.

Despite my initial concerns that people, especially those who are not exposed to many LGBT individuals but are nonetheless open to learning more about them, might get the impression that all gays lead a lifestyle similar to the characters found here, “Keep the Lights On,” directed by Ira Sachs, has a story worth telling behind its missteps. I could not help but imagine the possibilities if it had not been so limited.


Brotherhood (2009)
★★★ / ★★★★

Lars (Thure Lindhardt) was an up-and-coming leader in the army, but he was asked to leave because someone accused him of making a pass at a few fellow soldiers when they were out getting drunk. Lars moved back home and met Fatty (Nicolas Bro), a neo-Nazi recruiter, while spending time with his friends. Impressed with Lars’ intelligence and eloquence, Fatty invited him into the circle and was assigned to be trained by Jimmy (David Dencik). Although they didn’t get along initially, it wasn’t long until Jimmy and Lars revealed their attraction for one another. Written by Nicolo Donato and Rasmus Birch, “Broderskab,” also known as “Brotherhood,” was a rare walk in the shoes of neo-Nazis who also happened to be a homosexuals. The movie was at times difficult to sit through because of all the talk about beating Arabs and Muslims like they weren’t even human beings. They threw words around like “honor” and “bravery” but there was absolutely nothing honorable nor brave in their actions especially when their plans involved inflicting as much damage as possible and then hiding in the dark to keep their precious anonymity. There were also a handful of scenes that featured gay bashing as if homosexuality could be beaten out of a person. There was a terrible but brilliant line uttered which highlighted the importance of physically beating young gay men so they would be too scared to come out of the closet. As I sat watching the images and listening to the words the film had to impart, I couldn’t help but feel angry, sad, and deeply disturbed. And yet I thought such images and words were necessary because they were things that neo-Nazis do and say. The picture came into focus when Lars and Jimmy shared the same space. When they made love, it was sexy because the very idea of (let alone physically) being with someone of the same sex was forbidden in their world. Their relationship was complicated because both were immersed in self-hatred. They wouldn’t have joined if they knew and valued themselves, especially Jimmy. Lars joined due to a misdirected anger–anger toward the military’s decision despite its lack of evidence, anger toward his mother for prying/trying to get his life back on track, and possibly anger toward himself for not hiding himself a bit better during that key drunken night. We all knew that Fatty and company would eventually find out that something was going on between Lars and Jimmy. Patrick (Morten Holst), Jimmy’s brother who had an addiction to drugs, was jealous of Lars for being promoted before him. Naturally, he would be the first person to find out about his older brother and would have had to talk to the worst person about what he saw. However, the screenplay’s predictability didn’t matter because its core, its emotions, was strong. The strength was in the intense glances, the unspoken words, and the paradox of being gay and a neo-Nazi. Directed by Nicolo Donato, “Broderskab” did something brave and honorable: it created a case that neo-Nazis are human, too.