Search This Blog

Tuesday 9 February 2016

A War (Krigen), Film, Denmark (2015), written and directed by Tobias Lindholm, 9* out of 10

Shot in a factual documentary like manner, A War is compelling viewing from beginning to end and fully deserves its Oscar nomination for “Best Foreign Language Film”.  

Claus Michael Pedersen (Pilou Asbæk) is the Commanding Officer of a Danish unit in the Afghan War. After one of his soldiers on patrol is killed by an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) he decides to move from command-centre to leading patrols of his units in the field. Meanwhile back in Denmark, waiting for the occasional phone call Pedersen’s wife Maria (Tuva Novotny) is doing her best to manage with her three young children, one of whom finds it particularly difficult to cope with his dad’s absence on dangerous duty. 

When on one of his unit’s patrols, Pedersen administering medical care to the little daughter of a local Afghan farmer, a tragic chain of events is set in motion. It will impact not only the local people, whom the Danish soldiers are trying to protect from the Taliban, but also test spirit and morale of Pedersen and the soldiers under his command to the limit.

Shot in a factual documentary like manner, A War is compelling viewing from beginning to end. The action is shown from the perspective of the soldiers and of the unit commander’s family in Denmark. The miniscule area of Afghanistan that the unit is responsible for and its population are viewed through this lens as potentially and of actually dangerous and hostile, but almost always as strange and threatening. By taking this perspective the viewers feelings towards the local civilians and even children vacillates between suspicion and affection.  

For European audiences it is easier to instinctively sympathise with soldiers from a small European country such as Denmark than with troops larger powerful countries like the US, Britain, France or Germany. Considering the duties and dilemmas of an individual soldier, such a predisposition on the part of a supposedly neutral audience is hardly justified; but it plays an important role in the extent of the emotional rollercoaster ride which this film takes us on.    

Writer and director Tobias Lindholm, who gave us The Hunt ( and The Hijacking, has again done an outstanding job, showing both the interpersonal relations among the soldiers in Afghanistan's theatre of (low intensity) war and the impact that such a posting has on an officer’s family at home. Acting performances are strong, too, with outstanding performances by Pilou Asbæk and Tuva Novotny.  Without being didactic or preachy, the story leaves us with a moral and emotional dilemma which viewers will have to think through and answer for themselves. Krigen fully deserves its Oscar nomination in the category “Best Foreign Language Film”. Highly recommended.

No comments:

Post a Comment