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Review: Brotherhood

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Love and other bonds


- A remarkable Danish debut feature which won the top award at the Rome Film Festival 2009. Brilliant directing for a thwarted homosexual love-story set in the Neo-Nazi underworld

Review: Brotherhood

Like Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain, which was unjustly pigeonholed as that “gay cowboy film,” Danish director Nicolo Donato’s feature debut Brotherhood [+see also:
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Interview Nicolo Donato [IT]
interview: Nicolo Donato
film profile
, winner of the Rome Film Festival, will likely be stigmatised as “that gay neo-Nazi movie.” That would be a shame, as the film is really a love story that happens to involve people with little hair and swastika tattoos.

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Lars (Thure Lindhardt, Flame from Flame & Citron [+see also:
film profile
) has just been dismissed from the army, where he was up for a promotion as a staff sergeant, after some nasty rumours spread. Unsure what to do with his life and pestered by his mother, he falls in with a group of lowlifes who turn out to foster neo-Nazi ideals and are part of the neo-Nazi Party in Denmark.

Leader of the at-times violent gang is the portly Michael (Nicolas Bro), who takes an immediate liking to Lars because he speaks his mind – even when he completely disagrees. Though Donato could perhaps have spent a little more time fleshing out the reasons why Lars so quickly becomes a full-fledged member of the Party, there is a palpable sense of camaraderie and belonging between the young men that partially explains why he finally chooses to become part of that group.

Also part of the rowdy posse are brothers Jimmy (David Dencik, from A Soap [+see also:
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interview: Lars Bredo Rahbek
interview: Pernille Fischer Christensen
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) and Patrick (Morten Holst, the son of the film’s producer Per Holst). When Lars leaves the parental home after a dispute, Michael sends him to temporarily live with Jimmy.

In some strongly directed scenes that rely on the evident on-screen chemistry of the actors, precision editing and spectacular camerawork that balances the intimate and a wider view, the sparks start flying between Jimmy and Lars, though neither really knows how to deal with it.

A succession of close-ups – one of Lars, then one of Jimmy, after the former has closed the door of his bedroom – is perfectly executed and proves the age-old adage that pictures can indeed convey more than words. It is all the more stunning coming from a director who hasn’t had any formal film training and for whom this is his first feature.

Part of the strength of the film is derived from the screenplay, written by Rasmus Birch and the director. The real subject of the film is neither a vile ideology and its youthful adherents or homosexuality in particular, but simply romantic feelings and emotions that are incompatible with the milieu from which the characters derive their primary sense of identity.

As the title suggests, Brotherhood is about belonging more than anything else, while also highlighting the difficult relationship between Jimmy and Patrick. The relationship of the two siblings is severely tested when Michael passes over Patrick in favour of Lars, though Lars has only been part of the group for a couple of weeks, subtly suggesting the idea that bonds – blood bonds, emotional bonds, political bonds – are constantly in flux.


international title: Brotherhood
original title: Broderskab
country: Denmark, Sweden
sales agent: TrustNordisk
year: 2009
directed by: Nicolo Donato
screenplay: Rasmus Birch, Nicolo Donato
cast: Thure Lindhardt, David Dencik, Nicolas Bro, Morten Holst, Signe Egholm Olsen, Jon Lange, Anders Heinrichsen

main awards/selection

Rome Film Festival 2009 Golden Marc'Aurelio Jury Award for Best Film

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