Inheritance

aka ARVEN
Movie Review by Dan Spiers

Starring: Ulrich Thomsen, Lisa Werlinder, Ghita Norby, Karina Skands, Lars Beygmann
Director: Per Fly

THE INHERITANCE, directed by Per Fly, is an account of one man’s doomed attempt to strike a balance between duty and love. Christoffer (Ulrich Thomsen) lives a charmed life with a beautiful actress, Maria (Lisa Werlinder), but following the suicide of his father is forced to disrupt this utopia by returning to Denmark in order to attend the funeral.

Upon his return Christoffer finds a family business racked with debt and a seemingly incompetent brother-in-law, in line to take control. Christoffer’s mother, Annelise (Ghita Norby), pleads for her son to claim his inheritance, but aware of the impact it will have on his relationship with Maria, he refuses.

However, when faced with the massed ranks of the workforce, Christoffer becomes acutely aware of the impact bankruptcy will have, not just on his family, but on the community, and relents. In so doing, he not only sacrifices his life and happiness, but that of Maria too. Utterly devoted, she refuses the acting contract she covets and relocates to Denmark.

Shot at close range on hand held cameras, THE INHERITANCE has the notable effect of making you witness to events that, as they unfold, appear inappropriate for viewing pleasure. They feel too real and too emotionally raw to be seen in public. When Fly does depart from this invasive intimacy, the contrast is striking, notably when Christoffer and Maria first return to Denmark and a tracking shot, at distance, follows their progress through the Danish industrial landscape. It is symbolic of future events that they appear to be completely consumed by the environment.

Everything about the movie is authentic, from the dialogue which feels unscripted, to interpersonal relationships and individuals’ decisions. The family itself is bitterly divided, torn apart by the prospect of power and the subsequent feelings of fear, resentment, and guilt. All of the performances within this unit are startling, and conducted with a subtlety and nuance of emotion too rarely seen.

Norby plays the tyrannical matriarch with glee, her relentless, oppressive will crushing any doubts Christoffer may have. Thomsen and Werlinder are outstanding. His transformation from reticent, idealistic participant in the family business, to a steely eyed and grimly determined Chief Executive is something to behold. Ultimately though what is most striking is the dissipation of Maria and Christoffer’s love.

Watching lives unravel is never going to be fun, but when a film is written, performed and directed as well as THE INHERITANCE, it can be instructive. I left the movie distraught at where it all went wrong, and determined not to make the same mistakes myself. It also left me thankful that I am in line to inherit nothing more than a collection of peculiar thimbles.

6 out of 6 stars

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