Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Flammen & Citronen (Ole Christian Madsen, 2008)

Second in our viewing list was Flammen & Citronen, the story of two Danish partisans during the late days of World War II. This one is in Danish, but is worth the subtitles.

The general story is pretty simple, "Flame" (Thure Lindhardt) and "Citron" (Mads Mikkelsen) are a pair of Danish partisans in Nazi occupied Denmark in 1944. They are part of an organization that eliminates Danish Nazi collaborators; primarily people working as informants or those who spread enemy propaganda. Their role begins to change, as they are assigned to eliminate German officers. Things start getting messy for them as they begin to realize the politics involved in their assignments. Sometimes their organization is taking orders from Stockholm, sometimes Great Britain, sometimes the United States. As the organization begins to unravel, in their eyes, they take matters in their own hands, with disastrous results.

There are a number of reasons I really enjoyed this film, but most importantly (at times) is in how it relates to a very popular film with a similar theme; Boondock Saints. Both films portray a pair of men with an enemy to eliminate, and ultimately, at a basic level, they are all murderers. The difference is that in Boondock Saints they pair are portrayed as heroes. There seems little remorse, nor questioning of motives. Maybe the source material (a video game, I assume) depicts more of this, but it does not make it to the film. In Flammen & Citronen we have two men who clearly have problems with what they do and struggle with the appropriateness of their actions versus the general need for what they do. While the pair in Boondock Saints profit from their revenge, and use it to fund further exploits, Flame and Citron forgo any normal life or family, constantly hunted by their prey.

Enough of that comparison.

Flammen & Citronen is a beautifully shot film, acted brilliantly by Lindhart and Mikkelsen, as well as much of the major supporting cast; particularly Stine Stengade as the mysterious agent "Ketty Selmer". The plot flows nicely despite its twists. I did not notice many holes in the general plot, though one character motivation gets a little lost. Maybe I am just thick? The film has a very noir feel to it, and despite its rather beautiful color palate, could have been shot in the style of Casablanca or more recently Schindler's List. The colors and choice of lighting set a wonderful mood and separate scenes nicely. There are a few instances, particularly toward the end, where there is some odd zooming that smacks of television police thrillers. These were a bit jarring, but 99% of the film is shot uniformly and makes it a film you want to look at.

An interesting part of the film also involves the portrayal of violence. It does get rather brutal. They do not pull punches with the ugliness of killing, but they do exclude much of the bloodiness of the action on screen, which actually adds to the trauma. There is no spray of blood to distract you. When a character is executed, you have to look at that; you see the person, not just a flashy special effect.You do not lose the humanity of the person killed, and regardless of the "justice" done or "culpability" of the victim you have to deal with them as a human being.

This one is on Netflix, at least as I type this, and is well worth your time. It is a great film that really sucks you in emotionally. Regardless of your genre preference you should enjoy it.

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