Oscar’s Best Foreign Language Film in 2011. The undertone of this relatively calm movie is about violence that we endure since civilization. How are we going to approach it? an eye for an eye? survival of the fittest? or to believe that humanity exists? But more importantly, when do we learn that? and from whom? parents, teachers, the internet?
The story starts off with Anton(Mikael Persbrandt)working in the field of some African country as a volunteer doctor. Other than the long line of patients with usual maladies, often he needs to deal with severely beaten patients transported in wheel barrow, and the perpetrator is “the Big Guy” that locals fear.
Anton and his wife, Marianne(Trine Dyrholm) are separated with two sons, Elias (Markus Rygaard) and his little brother. Elias has been bullied at school everyday, and yet the school does very little to help it seems, and its teachers, like Niels (Martin Buch) condones such innocent teasing in class.
Christian (William Jøhnk Nielsen) transfers to this new school after his mother died of cancer, living with his grandma and father, Claus (Ulrich Thomsen), who is a business man that still travels back to London for meetings. He witnesses the bullying on his son’s school-yard.
Christian has dark clouds over his head, not only he never smiles, but he also hates. Perhaps, this state of mind empowers him with fearlessness?! He fights the bully, Sofus(Simon Maagaard Holm), for Elias and threatens with knife to his throat; he plots revenge for Elias’ father who has been twice humiliated in front of them. Is he a psychopath or just angry with the world per se, for what happened to him and happening around him? Is he seeking justice, fairness, or simply revenge? But the question begs asking are Sofus and Christian the same breed: Bullies?
Back to Anton, his father who got slap on the face many times; he believes violence begets violence, so he did nothing! With his ethical responsibility as a doctor, he even helps “the big guy”, who has severe leg wound, arrives on truck with his gang with guns in tote. Is he a saint or just a coward, not fighting back – even verbally – when slapped on the face several times?! So if he is so full of compassion, moral, and humanity, then how he fails his own marriage with adultery?
It’s one of those films that you have to see it through you own lens, and interpret on your own. It is a great movie to watch, especially – throughout – I was uncomfortable with Christian’s behaviours; it’s like sitting beside a time-bomb! Boom, all will be erased.