Movie Review by Susan Hodgetts
Starring: Ann Eleonora Jorgensen, Trine Dyrholm, Nicolaj Kopernikus, Sonja Richter
Director: Annette K Olesen
This is the 10th film in the Danish Dogma phenomenon, and indeed celebrates the tradition’s 10th year, but Annette Olsen’s film won’t have you spilling your popcorn in laughter.
Set in a woman’s prison in Denmark, newly graduated theologian Anna is given the opportunity to become prison chaplain. Along with Anna arrives mysterious prisoner Kate, bringing with her rumours that she’s a ‘miracle worker,’ although no one is aware of the real reason behind her re-location. The quiet and reserved transferee begins to consolidate her rumoured mystical status after she cures a fellow inmate of drug addiction.
As Kate’s arrival more than Anna’s brings about a change in atmosphere at the prison, including that of sweet-natured prison warden Henrik, Anna finds herself not only competing, but struggling, with Kate’s presence in the face of her own tragedy. And judgemental as she is on Kate, the juxtaposing moral dilemma of whether she can face up to the responsibility for her own decisions is set in motion, or whether in a way the God-fearing preacher is really that much better than the woman whom she judges.
This is a bit of a slow starter, a rather serious and harrowing film, and although it’s full of challenging moral dilemmas and is worth the perseverance, not one to take the date to. Good constant “halo” lighting behind Kate and her constant presence in white sets up the character contrast beautifully between herself and Anna and although the film raises strong and interesting points it’s ultimately rather depressing. And it was hard to sympathise with the wardens – although the film blatantly wanted you to – if they hate the prison that much why don’t any of them think about getting another job?
One thing I did garner was that rules seem so lax in Danish prisons that it’s approaching Bad Girls goes to Majorca. If prisoners were allowed to make their own pancakes/smuggle drugs/achieve day release this easily in Britain I think we might want to lock up the wardens with them.