Ever wonder why the better foreign movies are different from the typical Hollywood fare? Perhaps it's the guts to tackle difficult (read "depressing")subjects. Or maybe it's the pace without a car chase every five minutes and a booming soundtrack to mask how bad the movie really is (TRANSPORTERS 1, 2, 3).
We have recently watched two fine films, one Danish, and the other, French Canadian). The latter, INCENDIES (SCORCHED), relates a tortuous journey of adult twins looking into the mysterious past of their recently deceased mother. This 2010 drama tells the story of a woman with an incredibly painful past in the Middle East, who eventually escaped to Canada with her infant twins. What horrific things has she endured? And why does her will direct her children to look for the answers to her story and their parentage? The film follows the mother and her twins' difficult journeys towards the truth in a strongly realistic, take-no-prisoners style. The acting, especially that of the mother and the female twin, is superb. There is rarely any booming music, only elegaic when appropriate. INCENDIES was nominated for an Oscar for Best Foreign Film of 2010, but the trophy went to the Danish film IN A BETTER WORLD.
I could not easily choose one of these films above the other, but IN A BETTER WORLD is complex and gripping in terms of family dynamics, the loss of a parent, extreme bullying that leads to extreme results, a marriage dissolving.
And this is all in a small city in Denmark. The action shifts back and forth between an unidentified but brutal African country where a Danish doctor does incredible feats of caring and saving lives. Each time he goes home, he is faced with deeper conflicts within his family and another family, a Swedish business man whose wife has died from cancer and his bitter middle school son. The lack of communication between adults and their children leads to shocking actions, and the Danish doctor attempts to teach his son and his friend the nature of turning the other cheek. Ironically, he is forced to reconsider that attitude when faced with unspeakable evil in Africa. This beautifully filmed drama develops its central characters with vivid performances, believable conversations, and suspense.
Don't be afraid of movies like IN A BETTER WORLD and INCENDIES. Instead, embrace them and watch them with friends.