by Vladan Petkovic
- BERLIN 2018: Danish filmmaker Kasper Rune Larsen's first feature is an unflinching look at small-town youth, which is much less wasted than it might seem on the surface
Kasper Rune Larsen's first feature film, Denmark [+see also:
film profile], which has had its international premiere in the Berlinale's Generation 14plus section, follows a young couple who take an inverted route in the development of their relationship: they actually get closer only after she announces that she is pregnant.
Denmark is set in a world of youth promiscuity, weed and alcohol, a world of a fluid social awareness based on the limitless availability of information and an undefined idea of morals and what emotions really mean. So it is not hard to imagine a situation in which 22-year-old skater Norge (Jonas Lindegaard Jacobsen) is suddenly seduced by 16-year-old Josefine (Frederikke Dahl Hansen), and only a few days later persuaded by her that she is pregnant by him. What is harder to expect is the way their relationship develops into a deep emotional connection, however frivolous it may appear in the given social context.
There are many films that explore wild and obliviously nihilistic youth, but what sets Denmark apart are the protagonists, who are far from shallow, remote or uninterested. Norge is reasonably well educated and has a part-time job helping a young disabled man, while his best pal Myre (Jacob Skyggebjerg) is actually quite talented in his freestyle rapping. Their conversations show a higher level of human sensitivity, aspirations and ambitions than what we would expect from a film that initially reminds us of everything from Larry Clark's Kids, through Maja Miloš's Clip [+see also:
interview: Maja Milos
film profile], to Sofia Exarchou's Park [+see also:
interview: Sofia Exarchou
film profile], but of course this doesn't stop them from picking up two girls for a night of booze, drugs and casual sex. This is presented, like many other thematically significant events in the film, clearly, directly and without any moral judgement.
Denmark is a multi-layered exploration of many oft-trodden topics connected to growing up in the modern Western world, with flesh-and-blood characters whose actions feel natural even when they are totally unexpected. One may ascribe this to our flawed perception of teenagers, which is formed by the same means that we believe made them the way they are, but Larsen's hyper-realistic approach with an always hand-held camera, raw light and simple, unobtrusive editing brings us close to characters that are well-enough developed in the script for us to give them the benefit of the doubt – something we rarely do for social groups whose attributes we experience superficially and are quick to judge.
While the title of the movie may be broad and perhaps self-ironic, the treatment of the characters and the life it presents is everything but. It is an honest and direct film that imbues a well-trodden theme with nuance and sensitivity.
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