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BROTHERS, 2004
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BROTHERS (BRODRE), 2004
Movie Reviews

Directed by Susanne Bier
Starring: Connie Nielsen, Ulrich Thomsen, Nikolaj Lie Kaas, Sarah Juel Werner, Rebecca Løgstrup
Review by Nina Katungi



SYNOPSIS:

Michael is declared dead after his helicopter crashes in Afghanistan. However months later he is found alive, withered and traumatised after being held captive at a rival camp. He returns home to find that his brother Jannik, the younger, unsuccessful, troublemaker of the two has put himself together and has helped support Michael’s two daughters and wife Sarah through this difficult time. Michael is not the same person he was before and it is clear that there is more to his furious rage than his suspicions of Sarah and Jannik having been together.

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REVIEW:

Susanne Bier and Anders Thomas Jensen work together again to create this dramatic piece based on soldiers who return home, clearly damaged and traumatised by what they’ve experienced in the field. Bier wanted to bring the two worlds together and by doing so, she could then accentuate the contrasts of the two places that her main characters were in. Bier came with this idea to Jensen and together they created this great, little film “Brødre”.

The film starts on the day that Michael (Thomson) is leaving on a mission to Afghanistan. This is also the day that Jannik (Kaas) is being released from jail. Michael goes to pick Jannik up, it’s clear the brothers have taken different paths in their lives but still they are close and good friends. The whole family come together for dinner that evening for two main reasons - to welcome home Jannik and to send Michael off in good spirits. Else (Højfeldt) seems happy to see her son Jannik while Henning (Mejding) shares no more than a passive “hello” to his son. Sarah (Nielson) and Jannik greet each other politely, by exchanging a few words and embracing in a brief hug. As Sarah rests in Michael’s arms at the dinner table it is clear that they are in a loving and happy relationship. It is also clear that Michael is the favoured son out of the two.

A couple days later we find Michael in Afghanistan. He is set on his mission in a helicopter with the rest of his troops. The helicopter is suddenly struck - it drops and crashes into the water. Two officials turn up at Sarah’s door to tell her the bad news. Michael is officially declared dead. The whole family are distraught and out of anger, Henning makes it clear to Jannik that, “his one and only son is dead”. Jannik realises that he must pull himself together and help support Sarah through this hard time. He starts by fixing Sarah’s kitchen that Michael has taken so long to finish. Jannik starts to spend more and more time with Sarah and the girls that it almost looks as though they’ve become a family. In the meantime Michael is still alive and has been discovered by rival soldiers in Afghanistan. They take him to their camp and lock him up. But Michael isn’t the only prisoner held captive, someone is already there. Michael soon recognises him as the missing soldier, Niels Peter (Henriksen) from the picture that his colleague Allentoft (Olsen) showed him. Back in Denmark, Sarah and Jannik get caught in a moment and kiss. They are both aware that this is wrong and simply pass it off as weak moment caused them both missing Michael. In both worlds now, everyone is trying to take each day at a time. Michael is challenged by the rival soldiers to the extent that he ends up doing the worse thing imagined. In the days that follow this incident, Michael is finally rescued and taken home.

Michael returns to Denmark and is finally re-united with his family. He realises a slight change in the home front and instantly reacts with rage. Sarah does not recognise her husband anymore. The suspicions Michael has for his brother, he believes that he’s been together with his wife, act as trigger to his final break-down. Michael won’t tell anybody what happened to him and in the end all his anger and guilt spills out of control. In conclusion the film takes on an emotional and real depiction of what could happen to a soldier when he suffers from post-traumatic stress.

This film entails a collection of popular and talented Danish actors. You may recognise Lars Ulrich from some US blockbusters, “The World Is Not Enough”, “Kingdom of Heaven” and “Duplicity” just to name a few. This is actually Connie Nielsen’s first Danish role. She is Danish but managed to breakthrough in the US before debuting on the Danish screen. She is most well-known for character in “Gladiator” but has also been in “The Devil’s Advocate” and most recently “Return to Sender”. The film also won The Audience Award for World Cinema Dramatic at the Sundance Film Festival 2005.

I thought it would be a good idea to review this film considering the fact that the US version, “Brothers”, will be released later this year. It will be interesting to see how true it will be to the original film. Danish cinema is very different from US cinema so these films should not be compared with one another. I will approach both of them as individual interpretations, because if I don’t then I know for sure that I will be unsatisfied with the latest version. If anyone is interested to see this version before the next or if anyone just wants to watch a good international film then I will highly recommend “Brødre”.

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