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Which of these essential female detective figures is your favorite?
As of the 1st of December, these are the highest-grossing movies in China in 2017, according to Box Office Mojo. Which one would you choose to watch (or re-watch)?
Which of these TV offices would you want to work in?
For a trip to the theater, which of these five types of productions would you prefer to see?
Which of these TV shows do you find so cringeworthy that it is hard to watch?
Which of these Spanish-language films is your favorite?
The list includes films that are primarily in Spanish with an IMDb rating of 7.5 or more from at least 25,000 voters.
Smukke mennesker (2010)
Sex, lies and therapy
"Smukke mennesker" is being cited as the box office bomb of the year in Danish cinemas, but I was captivated by it. Its multiple story lines of connected characters and its somewhat bleak and depraved point of view have critics throwing up comparisons to this and that source of inspiration, but I found the characters and the themes of sexual identity engaging on their own.
I was particularly impressed by Sebastian Jessen in arguably the leading role as the attractive, even beautiful young man who seems to decide to spend his youth on his own, away from parents or obligations, selling sexual favours with little discrimination, but not without empathy. Mille Hoffmeyer Lehfeldt is equally daring as a school teacher who chases some kind of physical fulfillment after losing a breast to cancer surgery. Bodil Jørgensen ('Idioterne') comically retires from the company where the young boss doesn't know anything about her, then loses her husband on the same day and has absolutely nothing to do. Henrik Prip, who I have never before considered an interesting actor, makes his woman-abusing, self-hating, therapist-seeking character seem almost likable. The supporting cast make excellent contributions.
There are numerous surprising or poignant or plain funny moments, some of them cringeworthy like the meeting of the young man with the old widow - on her couch. The characters, flawed as they are, made me care. I could have done without the chapter headings, which gave the proceedings a pompous edge and seemed to slow down an otherwise well-edited film. The ending presents an absurdly coincidental chance meeting, but I was happy to see the story go there.
Bits and pieces from the history of gay cinema
This film takes a look at gay cinema as it has developed over the last decades. It is not thorough or precise enough to be a true historical treatment of the subject, but rather lets its interviewees make their points without much opposition. Someone is allowed to say that he thinks the first "gay" movie was made in 1985, but we don't hear his reasons for the assertion. The upside is that there are some good interview bits in here, notably with John Waters, Tilda Swinton and Gus Van Sant.
There is no narrator or presenter, everything is interviews and film clips. The chosen film clips are sometimes linked neatly to fitting words by the interviewees, but overall the film feels slower than it needs to be. I saw this on Danish television; it looked to have been produced to be multilingual needing only subtitles to adapt from territory to territory.
Political and personal
I saw this film in its English-language version on Swedish television. It follows a gay couple who decide to film a documentary about the fight for a law to allow civil unions for gay couples in Italy. It seems like something of a vanity project with its focus on the couple's own emotional journey, but it also offers a look into the Italian political process and into the homophobia and religious sentiment that stand in the way of gay rights in Italy and elsewhere. The result is worthwhile for followers of the issue, though not essential viewing.
The English version that I saw contained narration which referred to the two protagonists in the third person, and which was carried out in a somewhat naive tone. I thought this was annoying and diluted the role of the gay couple as authors of the film.
Lille soldat (2008)
Under the surface
This is a very fine film, more serious than most Danish films, less somber than one might have feared. The story of prostitution among trafficked women is heart-wrenching at times, but is helped along by entertaining scenes and an excellent score. Well-established dramatic actress Trine Dyrholm gives a strong and controlled performance as a soldier recently back from war stumbling through her days as she is drawn into an unseen underworld that's right under her nose, and ours. The screenplay lets her scarring experiences in war bubble under the surface, and the character becomes the more interesting for it. Finn Nielsen has a rare, but excellent big role as the father, who is in turn comical and brutal, and British actress Lorna Brown is good as the Nigerian woman who is thankful for any client who will pay.
The film is critical of the forces that drive prostitution and trafficking and exposes the hypocrisy of the father, who claims to be helping the women he is selling, but it doesn't spell out its message, and its message is not easy to spell out. It is a captivating piece of fiction and deserves more than the lacklustre audience reception it has so far received in Denmark.
Himlens hjärta (2008)
Elegant and engaging
Danish director has directed a marriage drama cast with four excellent Swedish actors. From beginning to end it is beautifully filmed, strongly acted and well written. The story involves two middle-aged married couples who live in lush houses, have good jobs and are set in their ways, perhaps too much so for some or all of them. The dinner conversation when the two couples spend an evening together is the elegant starter of the infidelity drama that follows. This is tough and sometimes excruciating drama, though it does have pieces of playful dialogue throughout; there is also a dose of sweetener added at the end, but interpret it as you wish.
The settings are restricted to a few rooms of their two houses and go along with a style of photography and direction that insists on intimacy and requires precision on the part of the performers. The chamber drama style has been compared to certain moments of Bergman's career, usually favourably. There are also some surprising moments where the director draws attention to himself, for instance by allowing the actors to look straight into the camera; I think this helps keep the film engaging for the interested viewer.
A sidenote on the film title. It's possible that this double-metaphor romantic cliché is meant as some sort of irony on the part of the director, but it refers to nothing in the movie and almost kept me from wanting to see the it. It's already hard enough for films like these to survive in theatres without sticking nonsense titles on them.
Caught in the Act (1993)
Bad movie, but with saving graces
Someone must have had a fun time thinking up the plot of this little flick. That someone may have felt that since there was no other good reason to make this film, he might as well set the story in Hollywood and have the characters be an unemployed actor and a lonely agent with nothing better to do than fall in love with her clients. I wonder if the filmmakers were possibly unemployed themselves at the time, which would be an enjoyable twist. In any case, had they had anything better to do, I doubt they would have made this movie.
A man with bills to pay discovers thousands, then millions of dollars mistakenly deposited into his bank account. He decides to tell his bank. The film could have ended here, but the line is too long at the bank, so naturally he ends up spending the money instead. What follows is a thoroughly inexplicable chain of events with a plot twist of the sort that you really shouldn't think about too much. In the film's most clever development, the concept of acting takes center stage in the plot's resolution; all comes down to who can pull off the best performance.
Along with decent acting, especially by Leslie Hope as the attractive, but cold lover and Patricia Clarkson as the shy, but warm friend, these meta elements are saving graces of an otherwise lukewarm and unattractive production.
Taggart: Angel Eyes (1996)
This story from the Taggart series, usually shown in three installments, is among the best of the period after Taggart's death when Mike Jardine is chief inspector. Set against the backdrop of a growing gay scene in Glasgow, the plot has Jardine and his team investigating a series of grueling murders of gay men sought out in the local clubs and bars. The images of the dead bodies, stripped down and washed before being abandoned, are haunting and stuck with me from the first time I saw the story years ago until I was able to catch it again in the past few days.
The plot is carried out in persuasive manner, with enough characters to let us doubt the identity of the murderer, and enough false clues for us to feel convinced of the wrong conclusions. Most of all, though, it was the engaging character drama of the story that impressed me. Mike Jardine has obvious problems accepting homosexuality and jeopardizes the investigation because of it. Young cop Stuart Fraser is gay, but hides it at work, indicating the prejudice still existing in certain strata of society. Detective Jackie Reed becomes a highlight of the story as she navigates the local gay community while negotiating the tempers of her male co-workers. Particularly poignant is the family drama of the first murdered man, who leaves behind his lover of 40 years and an angry daughter, who does not accept her father's life choices.
At the end, the plot goes perhaps a little too sensational for my liking, but I must admit it is quite effective. Despite the drama, the story does not omit the sense of humour which is a popular part of the British crime fiction. Like the series in general, these episodes have good acting performances, with special mention to Blythe Duff and to the young woman who played the dead man's daughter, whose name I can't find.
Dark and dramatic
Thomas Bjerregaard Nielsen's film school graduation film is a dark piece about a twenty-something man who returns home to his father's country house for an annual hunting party. The young man has quit his job as a military officer, but is scared to tell his father. His dilemma and his feelings in general towards his father and what he stands for are shown through effective scenes, one where he changes into officer's clothes in the woods before he dares approach the house, another where his father interrupts him with common pleasantries each time he tries to speak his mind.
The film employs a technique where the narrative erratically jumps from one situation to a later one without notice, which is interesting but not necessarily elegant. With this as an instrument we proceed to see not only verbal encounters between characters, but also our protagonist walking in on his father and sister sharing a bed, and a dramatic situation to end the film.
There are strong similarities in plot to another work by a Danish film school graduate, Thomas Vinterberg's feature "Festen". The themes of youthful struggle, incest and patriarchy are thus not exactly original, albeit carried out in a slightly different, and simpler, plot. "Festen" was also a remarkably better work of art with for instance a stronger sense of environment, higher technical merit and better acting. While Flemming Enevold spins a strong character as the father, the younger actors Jan Meyer and Stine Fischer Christensen are not so charismatic in the parts of his adult children, and I don't feel like we get to see the motives or feelings behind their actions.
John og Mia (2002)
"John og Mia" is a 25-minute short from Danish director Christian Dyekjær. It is based on the good idea of a middle-aged man discovering his own daughter as the star of one of the adult movies he rents at the local gas station to comfort him in his not too stimulating life as a widowed truck driver.
The idea is good because it is surprising and because it begs action of the man and confrontation not only with his daughter, but with the detachment they have suffered. Without saying too much, the ending seems to say that estrangement within family can only ever be shallow - father and daughter share more than puts them apart.
Style is something different entirely. With its video pictures and dark lighting in anonymous settings this film offers a mood and a pace of its own, but fails to tell the story with anything except the most necessary ability. There are a few unnecessary scenes, and the entertainment level is not high. Dick Kaysø plays the father and more or less blends in with the interiors while Mira Wanting is the daughter who does well in those scenes that underline her sensibility as a woman and a daughter, especially the final scene. Actor and singer Niels Skousen is seen in a small role.
Flash of a Dream (2002)
Good subject, poor film
Drama-documentary "Flash of a Dream" chronologically tells the story of the Danish man Jacob A. Riis who emigrated to the United States and became famous for his photo documentarism about the poverty of New York in the early twentieth century. This subject is excellent; for Americans and Danes alike this is an interesting and relevant chapter in our shared history, and one that at least Danes are commonly unaware of.
However, the manner in which the story is told here leaves me cold. A subject which would certainly have made a good documentary, and quite possibly a good feature film, is turned into something which is both and neither. Swedish actor Peter Stormare narrates as Riis from a manuscript which is probably inspired by Riis' book "How the Other Half Lives", interrupted only by a few paragraphs narrated by Anna Christine Löf as Riis' lost love Elisabeth. Stormare speaks with a touch of a Scandinavian accent blended into an American accent so thick it seems affected. Most of all, though, it is the monotony and melancholy of his reading and the frequent sentimentality of the text that are annoyances.
This is accompanied by an imagery consisting of Riis' black-and-white photographs, black-and-white reconstructions of situations from Riis' experiences in New York, and some colour footage of present-day poverty in America. Trying to link the poverty of a century ago with the poverty of today is a good idea, but the attempt is much too unsubstantiated, and there is really very little of visual interest other than Riis' own photographs which are seen only briefly.
Some hand-written lines of Riis' writings are used as graphical elements, but there are no actual historical sources referenced in the film. While this may be natural in a dramatic work it leaves me as a viewer strangely uninterested and not much more knowledgeable about Jacob A. Riis and his work.
To kvinder (2001)
A beautiful and interesting film
"To kvinder" is an interesting Danish short film. It focuses on the relationship between an aging woman and a young daughter of Muslim immigrants as the latter is employed as a temporary housekeeper for the former. The ambition of the film is to show the cultural barriers that exist between them and, indeed, between Danes and immigrants in general, and to confront the prejudice and the lack of communication.
It does so in great style. Both lead actresses perform excellently, with frailty as well as strength. The cinematography is kept in a beautiful, classic style, accompanied with much grace by a score of piano music to reflect the importance of a piano in the storyline. Great compliments can be paid to every part of the production crew.
The film can be criticized as being politically correct or as ultimately downplaying the problems from cultural barriers. However, the fact that the actual barriers are almost always smaller than what the prejudices foresee is an ever-important message, and this film shows this in an appealing and interesting manner.
Manden med tubaen (2000)
A film of many qualities
"Manden med tubaen" is a fine Danish short film carried by quality in several important fields of film-making. The lead actor, the talented Søren Sætter-Lassen, is wonderful as the struggling man who finds a glimpse of passion in a tuba and in a woman who he can help because she is even more sad than he is. Especially remarkable is the cinematography by award-winner Anthony Dod Mantle and the sceneries and locations he is given to work with. The light and the colours give a refreshing stylistic touch to the film.
The director keeps the to some extent tragic tale interesting by not ignoring the moments of humour and warmth in the story. It's a film of important changes in a man's life, and while the brevity of the film perhaps excludes it from exploring all aspects, it certainly represents a good use of a form and a subject and is interesting and appealing to watch.
Under uret (1985)
Within the walls of a central station
In an entertaining and interesting television documentary from one of Denmark's top documentarians, Copenhagen's central train station is portrayed as something more than walls and a roof around a necessary means of transportation. Through the camera lens and the excellent interviews with the people who inhabit the station we hear a variety of stories: 'Roligans' returning in disappointment from a football match, a family who await the return of their family member from America after several decades, a man who comes to the station with two parrots on his shoulders to have his picture taken, an old woman who invariably sits in a corner to watch the travellers walk by, a prosthetic leg forgotten in a train, fireworks in the sky outside on Saturday night.
Documentarism with a topic as simple, yet complex as this is rarely seen better. Director Poul Martinsen presents us with a work of artistic and documentarist value while from start to finish focusing on the humanistic craftsmanship of telling good stories about actual people. Everyone really does have a story worth telling, at least in this train station. Bjørk Aabech's inspired photography of architectural details and everyday situations help to make this little film an excellent example of well-made, relevant documentarism.
Sofia - født 1901 (2000)
Good idea in theory, but fails to impress on closer inspection
This small Danish production, produced by Filmforsyningen for Danmarks Radio and directed by veteran Anders Sørensen, is based on the interesting and educational idea of letting a (fictional) hundred year old woman tell her life story and, through animation, depict the many events of her life that intertwine with the most dramatic events of the world in the twentieth century. Starting at a radio studio in Copenhagen where the old lady is invited to tell her story on the air, the film goes on to show us the events of her narration before, at the end, returning again to the radio studio and a situation more dramatic than expected, which proves a worthy finish line to an imaginative screenplay.
All the way through, the animation is coherent and even monotonous in its black-and-white sketchy style. Indeed, as a measure of imagination I find the animation to be decisively poor. In addition, the character voices are not good at all: while the Sofia voice is certainly that of an old foreign woman, it is also disastrously dull. Actor/comedian Thomas Mørk seems to follow that track in his performance which lacks surprise and feeling. This gathers the impression of a little film which is definitely interesting on the outset, but may prove almost unbearable to watch till the end.
Skyernes skygge rammer mig (1996)
Excellent performances and solid treatment of time, place and topic
"Skyernes skygge rammer mig" is the somewhat heavy title of this well-made Danish timepic. What you don't necessarily realize from the official plot summaries of this film is that its subject is that of a dark and potentially dangerous homosexual attraction. Written by author Klaus Rifbjerg, who is not a stranger to writing about homosexual topics, the film lets the young law clerk Jens delve into a nightlife he never knew before, led by the older man Erhard who is his superior at the office. It becomes clear, at least to the viewer, that Erhard is interested in more than conversations and friendship, and despite his relationship to a pretty girl his own age Jens finds himself tempted, and reluctant to cause disappointment for the man who has taken such an interest in him.
The director and the artistic team do well to create an atmosphere of the 1950s time period at issue, including many delightful details. The direction is also flawed, however, for instance when it ties the story to pictures of an aged Jens which gives, in my evaluation, an overly-ambitious structure and design for a short film of less than three quarters of an hour. Meanwhile, the lead actors and the acting direction are truly remarkable. Ole Lemmeke is precise in his portrayal of a slick man with ulterior motives and, as is hinted, a hurtful past; Tomas Villum Jensen is arguably even better in a role of much nuance. Additional parts range from bright to miscast.
Halfway through the film it struck me that I would have had a difficult time figuring out a way to end a story which follows a path towards something which could, it seems, certainly never be a happy ending, at least not for everyone involved. Indeed, the actual ending is my biggest concern with the storyline as it can perhaps be criticized for escaping climax rather than delivering it. Nevertheless, this is a fine short film which shows ambition and experience combined in good form.
Well-made crime-comedy with an edge
Going to see this was a bit of a gamble for me. I didn't feel convinced that this film would be worthwhile, based as it is on a funny, but not terribly dramatic news story about the robbery of a Rembrandt painting. I was, in the end, positively surprised, even at Lars Brygmann's unusual role which I would have thought was out-of-character for him.
In fact, director Jannik Johansen has made a very strong and convincing story from the actual event which inspired him. The fact that the robbers stole the Rembrandt by mistake rather than by intent proves a good starting point for a comic screenplay full of surprise, distrust and, eventually, disappointment. The latter is no spoiler, for it is almost a given that a Danish crime plot on film will not depict the problem-free victory of the crooks, but rather the opposite. "Rembrandt" might, as such, remind many viewers of the famous "Olsen-Banden" series.
Actors which work well in a comic, but also dramatic and personal setting are instrumental here. The film succeeds very well, especially with before-mentioned Lars Brygmann, the super-expressive Nicolas Bro and the bold, young Jacob Cedergren for whom this is the first major film role since his breakthrough in the TV series "Edderkoppen". Nikolaj Coaster-Waldau is all right as the fourth gang member, but his part lacks perspective and importance, in part due to the fact that the ending of the film doesn't involve his character adequately. Søren Pilmark, Sonja Richter and Paprika Steen are the most noteworthy of the additional cast, all in solid performances.
Rembrandt is not by any means a revelation, nor does it attract much attention for cinematography or additional crafts, but it works on all levels and, notably, successfully adds a serious and personal angle to its humour.
Exquisite film-making in Copenhagen love drama
"Reconstruction" is overt about its style from the first minute when a deep-voiced narrator cautiously introduces the audience to the story and the narrative form. From then on, and until the narrator returns at the very end, we are cast into a complex and difficult drama set in a big city environment filmed in stunning craft and style. Copenhagen has rarely been seen as interesting, and in an odd sense charming, as here.
This is not an expensive film - the Director's Cut entity behind the film was designed specifically to produce good films on even lower budgets than are the norm in Denmark - but its appearance is delightful and intriguing with its sometimes bright, sometimes dark and often grainy cinematography, additional effects of occasional written identifications of characters and locations, and classic-style title design.
The story sees a young man captured by the meeting with a woman different than, but resembling his usual girlfriend, and struck by existential doubt when he finds himself a stranger to those he thought he knew. The plot is impossible to grasp completely, at least at first sight, but sufficiently immediate for the beholder to like it and be taken in by it. To me, the lack of answers is a bit over the top and causes me to cut my IMDb rating for the film to 8, but with the strong support for David Lynch films and other similar works in recent years I am probably in the minority on that point.
Danish Nikolaj Lie Kaas and Swedish-Norwegian Maria Bonnevie are both extraordinary, Kaas in the antagonist role of Alex and Bonnevie in a rare double part as the different, but similar Aimee and Simone. A repeated scene in a bar in which Aimee and Alex meet is a particularly fine example of the precise and strong performances. The fine Danish actors Nicolas Bro and Malene Schwartz are the most noteworthy of the additional cast.
Ambition is Christoffer Boe's middle name, but he lives up to any and all expectations Danish experts may have had to him since he graduated from the National Danish Film School in 2001. He has already been compared to another renewer of Danish film, Lars von Trier, and while I am reluctant to compare this first-time feature director to an established international star, I do think "Reconstruction" bears a stronger sense of place through its use of locations and the plot's connection to them, a superior depiction of relationships between people, and sometimes simply a more profound joy of storytelling than in any of Trier's work.
Jeg er sgu min egen (1967)
Some may be surprised to learn that there were quite a lot of Danish musicals around the middle of the 20th century, almost exclusively of light and comedic character. Like in Hollywood, the phenomenon diminished in the last decades of the century and has until now only been resurrected in children's film and cartoons. And, if you like, in "Dancer in the Dark".
"Jeg er sgu min egen" stars the popular Daimi in what reads like a recipe for success; the film is written by one of the country's most popular writers (Rifbjerg), directed by one of the country's most popular directors (Balling) and has a score by one of the country's most popular composers (Fabricius-Bjerre).
Upon closer view, and watched thirty-six years after it opened, it certainly has some surprising content and entertainment, but is also a tiring experience. The main story is simple bordering on dull, albeit interesting for its light-hearted take on sex roles and the women's lib movement. Characters range from the subdued to the wacky, giving a mixed overall impression; I will note another misuse of the sometimes wonderful Poul Reichhardt in a role as a dream-sequence naval captain. Musically, only a few songs grabbed my attention, notably "Jeg sætter min hat som jeg vil", a Danish classic, and while the score is light and playful, it is perhaps not of significant interest. An advantage is the delightful cinematography in on-location settings in Copenhagen.
Hårde drenge danser ikke (2001)
Undramatic documentary on dramatic dancing
Eske Holm's documentary self-portrait is a small film produced by himself in the creative environment of one of the Danish Film Institute's workshops. It works on that basic level, as a document of Eske Holm's career in which he gets to express his ideas in words as well as show some of them in action. Something which, of course, is much more suited for the film medium than for those of writing or radio.
Also on the positive side, it gives a good overview of the 30-year career in question, with sufficient detail to fit those interested in the specific details of Holm's personal story or that of Danish modern dance in general.
The film, however, is not very interesting to viewers who are not familiar with or interested in modern dance. It doesn't adequately transcend the border between narrow and general interest.
A musical document
"Stjernekigger" is an interesting documentary about the rise of the Danish rock band Swan Lee. The film is an intimate and personal documentation of the band's long, troubled path towards releasing their first album, the acclaimed "Enter".
We see the private conversations of the group, showing the frustrations they face with finding a steady group of band members, and the just as frustrating meetings with record executives. The film also uses its medium well, for instance in the artistic intro sequence (identical to the band's music video for "Tomorrow Never Dies") and some impressionist mosaics of picture and sound that describe singer Pernille Rosendahl's personal story. Also, the description of the frustrating business of contacting record companies is made interesting through entertaining compositions of telephone conversations that lead nowhere.
The film ends with the decision of recording the album for the band members' own money and then a brief look at the success that followed. I would have liked to see additional parts of the band's development process, for instance the songwriting, as well as the actual recording process. This would also have served as an elaboration on what the musical visions of the band are, which is another thing I only get an incomplete impression of as a viewer.
Woyzecks sidste symfoni (2001)
It's a comedy, it's a tragedy, it's a ...
'Tragicomedy' is what I submitted as a keyword for this title, and tragicomedy is what it is. With a dialogue full of good ideas and a comic angle on everything that goes on, but also a semi-political emphasis on the problems of the unemployed immigrant, a number of melancholic scenes and a decidedly tragic ending, I sense that the director has in fact gone directly for this mixed impression.
With its surprising and entertaining fake-documentary style featuring a narrator voice and look-backs on the life of the main character, the style of the film is colourful and fun. Add to that the perfect lead, Zlatko Buric, himself an immigrant to Denmark from Croatia, and you've got yourself a very good film.
Weaknesses are a few dull scenes, the somewhat undeveloped character Sarah, and the mystification that the viewer may feel about the criminal environment that plays a central role in the film. Some of these are probably products of the intention of getting all moods into the film.
Average short film with climbing drama
This film features two of the actors who have achieved fame in the Danish film boom of the past five-six years. Ann Eleonora Jørgensen and Peter Gantzler also starred alongside each other in the drama series "Taxa" and the romantic comedy "Italiensk for begyndere".
In this short film by writer-director Kari Vidø they are two Danes who have gone mountain climbing in Sweden. They meet two Swedes, played by Reine Brynolfsson and Jessica Zandén. The outside drama of a climbing accident is combined with the inside drama of tension in the relationships of both couples.
I found the whole matter to be slightly uninteresting for the average viewer. The story felt a bit too schematic to quite capture my imagination or identification. This is, I think, a common risk in short films where a story has to be told through few scenes, but the best directors avoid it completely. In addition, the dialog sounded slightly unnatural, which reflected on the acting performances, and the cinematography, while well-crafted, felt uninspired.
Baby Quark (1987)
Good work; lovely irony
In what is surely the best of the six animation shorts about Quark, the troll-like creature from "Valhalla", the animators and writers do well to unite their crafts to tell Quark's story of origin while inspiring plenty of laughs. The animation is not very advanced, but its liveliness and its many fun troll characters make up for a great deal.
A narrator is used here to a much higher degree than in any of the following five films; he tells the entire story assisted only by various sound effects and some lively music. The narration, carried out excellently by Henrik Kofoed in the Danish version, is used for a very specific purpose, namely to tell an ironic tale where pictures are contrasts to the narration. It is this concept that brings me to rate this film highly among not only the six Quarks, but among animation shorts in general.
Excellent work; a bit of a classic
"Valhalla" has become a bit of a Danish classic, for years rating as a key product of Danish children's fiction. Since it was based on a popular Danish comic album series and helped establish a growing cartoon industry in Denmark, it has also achieved some popularity with young film aficionados, resulting for instance in the recent petition campaign for the DVD release of the film.
Having re-watched the film on the video release recently, I have almost exclusively positive remarks for the film. In all parts of the production this is solid work. There is, perhaps, more cuteness than true drama, and the film is left too short to be epic, but these are descriptions rather than criticisms.
Three things struck me as particularly note-worthy about the production: First, the story does well to transport the imagination of the beholder into the world of the old mythology. To that end, I took special note of the opening prologue scene in which a narrator introduces us to the land of the gods and the story that is to begin; it is almost perfectly styled. Second, as a very positive quality to the story in general, the gods of the story are portrayed funnily and full of flaws, bad tempers, etc. Third, the music of the entire film is excellent, balancing the dramatic and light styles elegantly to fit the moods of the film.
Music from Another Room (1998)
Flawed and incoherent
"Music From Another Room" is an interesting title. It doesn't make any sense until you see the film in which the phrase is part of a slightly silly metaphor about the nature of love. However, the title actually made me watch the film, along with the promise of well-known actors Jude Law, Jennifer Tilly and Brenda Blethyn.
The film is funny at times and lovable in the way we expect from romantic comedies - the opening scenes of young Danny's participation in a baby's birth is a good example, full of sweetness and humanity from Brenda Blethyn and young actor Cory Buck.
But this is basically not a very good film. The major problem is in the directing and the editing which are without elegance and with plenty of flaws. Too many parts of the film are unfunny. A large part of the latter half of the film is strained and repetitive. The intended mixture of sadness and joy is handled too unoriginally to be anything but indecision.
On top, the storyline is incoherent: Danny's immediate crush on a girl he hasn't seen since her birth is not backed by anything other than Gretchen Mol's nice, but perhaps rather bland appearance. For the most part, the character is described as a closed and slightly dull personality, and Mol plays it with a stiffness to match.
Jude Law is a splendid talent but his part much too romanticized and fundamentally uninteresting. Jennifer Tilly plays a blind girl who is provoked into experiencing life more than she has; she is good, but not excellent. In the end my favorite actors here are Brenda Blethyn and Jane Adams, both in fairly small parts.