In a Better World [DVD]
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2011 Oscar & Golden Globe winner for Best Foreign Language Film, IN A BETTER WORLD is a gripping, heart-rending drama about revenge and the power of forgiveness from internationally acclaimed director Susanne Bier (After The Wedding). From the confines of a refugee camp in Africa, to the deceptively idyllic suburban life of two families in Denmark, Susanne Bier expertly paints a portrait of two fragile worlds inextricably linked by conflict and violence and the hard choices struggling to be made for life in a better world.
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Top Customer Reviews
Is Anton, the idealistic, pacifist surgeon to be admired for devoting his working life to caring for people in what looks like a poverty-stricken refugee camp somewhere in Africa, or is he selfishly avoiding his guilt over his estranged wife and neglecting his two young sons back in Denmark in the process? Is he right to agree to treat the local villain when his black colleagues wish to leave the man to rot? Has he failed morally when he is eventually driven to give way to righteous anger? Is there one moral standard for a brutal, impoverished developing country and another for liberal, affluent Denmark? Is Anton hopelessly naive to insist that "violence only begats violence" to the extent that he literally "turns the other cheek" when an aggressive man punches him in front of his two sons, one of whom is Elias, with his inaptly named friend Christian a sceptical observer?
Christian's fierce sense of justice - his determination neither to be bullied, nor to let a bully go unpunished - seems more realistic, but he takes it too far.Read more ›
Well, if a Danish film entitled In A Better World fills you with expectation the drought might finally have broken, save your money. It is, instead, a pretty harrowing drama, beautifully staged and acted, as close in tone as I can think to Swedish Romantic-Horror Let Let The Right One In. Which is to say, grim.
The opening titles are projected downward onto a scene of sandy African hinterland cropped in such a way that it might be a close up of a banana. From there we open on a painterly tableau: a sweeping African landscape vaulted over by a heaving, boiling sky. The locale of the film switches between here and autumnal, coastal Denmark, between which Anton, a field doctor divides his time.
We also have parallel stories: Elias, Anton's son, is bullied at school. His home is also fractured: not only because Anton spends most of his time in an African refugee camp, but also because Anton's marriage is falling apart.
Christian is a new boy in Elias' school, transplanted out of a wealthy London boarding school following his mother's death from cancer. We first meet Christian as he flawlessly, but coldly, delivers his mother's eulogy over her coffin. In an early playground confrontation he comes to Elias' aid and reveals himself as a fearless child with a destructive streak.Read more ›
Whilst the African scenario is interesting, it takes second billing for me. The elements surrounding family trust and time and love given was fascinating and well done. Bullying, in several forms, whether brutal and un-policed, as in Africa, or in a Scandinavian school or within society itself and its repercussions thereafter were explored well and worked nicely.
I cannot readily compare it to any film I know of; that is refreshing in itself and had me hooked from start to end. In A Better World can be enjoyed and appreciated by a wide audience and not just those of us who are into World Cinema.
Christian starts a new school, and befriends Elias who is often bullied. Christian is full of anger and unresolved grief over the loss of his mother, and naturally takes it out on his father. Seeing Elias being bullied, Christian channels his anger into persuading Elias that the only true of course of action is revenge. Anton has separated from his wife, and when he is not working in Africa he looks after his children. Anton is involved in a very different form of bullying, not just in Africa but at home where he is involved in a petty squabble between his younger son and another boy and his father Lars (Kim Bodnia). Anton sets an example to his children through nonviolent confrontation, but Elias doesn't see it this way and decides on a different route of action with Christian taking the lead.
Anton and Claus lead extremely busy lives, to the detriment of their relationship with their sons. They have their own sense of loss and regret, both seemingly failing as parents and forced to watch their sons take matters into their own hands. There's a fine balance in the film between characters who act with cruelty and those who act with kindness, and which poses moral choices for those who fall somewhere in-between.
The acting from everyone is excellent, especially by the stoic Mikael Persbrandt and William Jøhnk Nielsen. The direction from Susanne Bier is good, but the film is let down by the predictability of the parallel stories.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Morally and emotionally interesting! Highly recommended :)Published 2 months ago by Amazon Customer
Such a beautifully made film, with incredible sensitivity to human motives, emotion and circumstance. Wonderfully acted too. Read morePublished 2 months ago by AD
I loved this movie and would like to buy it as a gift. But the person I'm buying it for is hearing impaired. Does anyone know if this film has closed captioning? Read morePublished 4 months ago by Alison
Enjoyed the story and the music.Young actors very good and the African scenes very moving.Published 4 months ago by Amazon Customer
Wonderful moving film beautifully acted by all.I love mikael persbrandt in beck but he's superb in this.Published 5 months ago by MRS PAMELA M MITTON
Good source of discussion material and bullying and on unintended consequences.Published 7 months ago by Samuel Steinkopf
i thought this was a first class film both in subject matter and acting. Nicely directed and well paced too.Published 7 months ago by liz