Film Scouts Diaries

2010 Festroia International Film Festival Diaries
Part 8: ... Men in Jail (of Their Own Making?)

by Henri Béhar

SETUBAL, PORTUGAL, June 12, 2010 - At the very beginning of Lars von Trier's Antichrist, an infant falls out the window while its parents are too engaged in heavy sex to even notice. The film then describes the immediate impact of that incident on the two adults, played by Charlotte Gainsbourg and Willem Dafoe, as they come unhinged in their own respective ways.

At the very beginning of Submarino (Denmark/Sweden, in Competition), directed by Thomas Vinterberg, a friend and Dogma-disciple of Von Trier's, a baby boy named Martin dies in his cradle while his two barely teenaged brothers are playing and drinking in the next room. That is just the prelude, as the impact of that accident still reverberates twenty years later.

Act 1: Nick is an ex-con, an alcoholic with a nasty temper, an aggressive loner unable to establish any non-violent rapport with women. With his bristling beard and tattooed muscles, he presents to the world a forbiddingly tough exterior that barely conceals an array of doubts, insecurities and demons.

Act 2: Roll back tape to a few weeks earlier, focus on the Younger Brother (played by Peter Plauborg, the character remains nameless throughout the film). Tall, lean, extremely pale with hollowed dark eyes, he has become a junkie who, beside the death of his infant brother twenty years ago, has had to juggle his addiction, his joblessness and his responsibility as a single father (his wife died in a car crash) trying to raise his little boy, named (you guessed it) Martin.

Act 3: The death of their alcoholic mother brings the siblings back together, albeit briefly, for harsh circumstances will soon wedge in to keep them apart.

That third act feels a bit too short and too rushed, but the trip that Vinterberg takes you on is so dark and so gritty that you dash outside for a breath of fresh air – delighted by the two leading actors' performances, eager to read the book the film is based on and (perhaps) to have another look at Vinterberg's breakthrough movie, Celebration, which – if memory serves one well – was overflowing with a true savagery that Submarino could use a dollop of.

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