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February 26, 2006



Susanne Bier - 2005
Universal Studios Region 1 DVD

After reading the news about Muslim rioting sparked by a Danish cartoon published last September, seeing a film about Danish involvement in the Middle East seemed more timely. This is not to say that I would have greater understanding of world events, but when you live in the United States, the news concerning military activity ignores or marginalizes the allied troops. Call me naive, but I wanted to express my support for Denmark.

Susanne Bier begins Brothers with a close up shot of an eye, a rippling pool of water, and a field of long grass. The film is about how reality is based on what is seen as well as not seen, both looking outward and inward. In addition to the first abstract shots used to open the narrative, Bier often shoots her characters using extreme close ups that reveal part of the face, again usually the eyes. Some of the stylistic influence of Dogme 95 can be readily seen, although the film thematically shares the concerns of family dynamics as in Breaking the Waves and The Celebration.

Brothers is in part about to brothers, the "good" brother in the Danish army, sent to Afghanistan, and the younger, unsuccessful brother. Bier primarily looks at the shifting relationships within the family, between spouses, siblings and parents. The title also can be taken in its usage signifying relationships between soldiers. Part of the narrative shifts locations, between cool blue Copenhagen and the hot brown Middle East, with Spain standing in for Afghanistan. Bier and writing collaborator Anders Thomas Jensen are interested in how traumatic events affect people individually as well as the impact within the family unit. Characters are at war with themselves and each other, at home and abroad.

Connie Nielsen is something of a revelation in Brothers. Nielsen is given more of a chance to dominate a film as the young wife and mother fighting to keep peace within her family. One would hope she is given a similar opportunity in an English language film. Although Brothers shares some similarities with The Deer Hunter and Coming Home, the film plays out on a smaller, more intimate field making it the more effective, and affecting, film.

Posted by peter at February 26, 2006 03:57 PM