In a Better World

(2010)

Genres: Drama

Review: In a Better World

Transcript for Review: In a Better World

CHRISTY LEMIRE:
Ok, next up is "In a Better World," which just won the foreign-language Oscar.  Directed by Susanne Bier of Denmark, it explores the human craving for revenge. Elias, played by Markus Rygaard, is a scrawny kid who's bullied at school. But his father, a doctor, is often away treating patients in Africa. 

CLIP 1 

CHRISTY:
Elias finds a champion in Christian, played by William Johnk Nielsen.  Christian has just moved to town from London with his father, following his  mother's death from cancer. He's a stoic kid, but given to bursts of violence.  His own father is also away a lot. This gives the boys plenty of chances to get into increasingly dangerous kinds of trouble. 

CLIP 3 

CHRISTY:
Susanne Bier addresses some complicated issues but then wraps things up a little too neatly. She also relies too often on obvious visual symbolism -- for example, Elias' father goes for a swim in the lake to cleanse himself after a physical confrontation with a surly mechanic. Still, my thumb is up, because the stakes are high, and Bier doesn’t really depict them with  a whole lot of melodrama.

IGNATIY VISHNEVETSKY:
I think the performances in this film are quite good and it’s a very good looking movie, but it is unfortunately, directed by Suzanne Bier and therefore it suffers from something I like to call Suzanne Bier syndrome.

CHRISTY:
Right.

IGNATIY:
Which is the tendency to kind of conflate serious issues of the third world with the problems of upper class white people in Europe  I think just the way this story is told and structured, the way we have this family drama, and then we’re cutting back to you know the doctor in Africa.  What ends up happening is that the African scenes almost become like metaphoric you know explanations of what’s going on in this family drama and I find it frankly morally repugnant.

CHRISTY:
The parallels are forced. The fact that the doctor is experiencing strife at home and strife at work and they’re increasingly intense on both ends simultaneously, it is forced tonally I think, but everyone’s really good in it though.

IGNATIY:
Yeah, sure everyone is really good, but like, seriously, the way that you know Danish people make fun of Swedish people for their accents is just like ethnic strife in Africa? I mean the kids put together…

CHRISTY:
No, I mean, you’re oversimplifying it big time.

IGNATIY:
The kids put together their…this film is oversimplifying the world big time.  I mean, to me it’s almost like Imperialism or something.  It’s you know they’re taking these images of suffering, even though they’re staged, and they’re using them you know, it the service of talking about somebody’s daddy issues.

CHRISTY:
But no, if it had been about the kids right?

IGNATIY:
If it had been about the kids, this would be fine.

CHRISTY:
Then it would be a much better movie.

IGNATIY:
Yes.

CHRISTY:
In a Better World would have been a better movie, yes.

IGNATIY:
In a better world, In a Better World would not have the African scenes or it would have just been the African scenes.  Putting the two together I think really drags it down.