Fear Me Not (Den Du Frygter)
Ulrich Thomsen, Paprika Steen, Emma Sehsted Høeg, Lars Brygmann, Stine Stengade, Bodil Udsen, Bjarne Henriksen, Josephine Märcher Sandig / Fiction / Danish
Suddenly, a middle-aged man finds a new lease of life. And then he keeps on changing...
This dark tale is the anatomy of a violently self-destructive mid-life crisis. To all outward appearances, Mikael (Ulrich Thomsen) is a success. He has a bright career, a loving wife and daughter, a gorgeous lakefront house, and cash to burn; he's a bourgeois Everyman. Despite the trappings of happiness, however, something is rotten in his state of mind. When a friend lets him participate in clinical trials for an experimental anti-depressant, he seizes the chance to find a cure for his malaise. As the the drug takes hold, though, Mikael's latent sadism emerges, and his increasingly deranged behaviour tears his family apart… Fear Me Not boasts the strong performances we've come to expect from Danish heavyweights Ulrich Thomsen and Paprika Steen (as the wife Sigrid), plus a first-rate turn by newcomer Emma Sehsted Høeg as the couple's daughter. Thomsen is particularly impressive, developing an enthralling portrait of the troubled Mikael – a man riven by deep urges towards primordial cruelty, but who retains the veneer of respectability even as he flirts with outright psychosis. The 'anti-depressant' serves as a pretext for him to slough off the oppressive toils of family, career, and social norms. "Everything will be much simpler and more primitive," he muses; he's overburdened by the sheer weight of detail in modern life, and seeks catharsis by destroying those closest to him. The film is largely a character study of this man, and Thomsen's unnerving performance carries it. Høeg is a real discovery, though – one of the film's most important surprises. Kristian Levring came to prominence with his Dogme '95 film The King is Alive (EIFF 2000). Here, he chooses an entirely different style, moulding a slickly polished picture through first-rate technical and design work, with pitchperfect imaging by DoP Jens Schlosser. The content is the sort of dark material at which screenwriter Anders Thomas Jensen (Mørke, EIFF 2005; Wilbur Wants to Kill Himself, EIFF 2003) excels. Jensen's tight writing; Levring's assured direction and slowburn pacing; compelling performances … this is a finely turned psychological thriller, and confirms Levring as a filmmaker of range as well as talent.
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