Open Hearts
***.8 GM
Starring: Mads Mikkelsen, Sonja Richter, Paprika Steen, Nikolaj Lie Kaas, Stine Bjerregard

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SUNDANCE REVIEW (which means I'm doing a lot of reviews in a hurry, so they might be shorter and less fantastical):

In catching the Danish film "Open Hearts," I believe I have now seen my first of the famed Dogme 95 films (keep in mind that some films have been 'certified' as Dogme films even though they sidestep a couple of commandments here and there), and I enjoyed it thoroughly, even though they had some film mixups at my screening. It creates a lot of honest emotional confusion that leads to legitimate gut-twinges, and it doesn't hurt that the star, Mads Mikkelsen, somehow reminds me of The Rock (it's in the facial structure and the smile, not in the pasty European skin and glasses). Everytime he started getting some action, I heard the "Rocky! Rocky!" chants in my mind. Yes, I am a loser.

It's actually a very angsty story - the happy couple of Cecile (Richter) and Joachim (Kaas) have their lives shattered by a car accident that leaves Joachim permanently paralyzed from the neck down. The Joach doesn't take this lying down - well, yes, he DOES take it lying down, since he can't get up, but he doesn't react well at all, letting his bitterness envelop him, and he starts to drive Cecile away. The only person she has to confide in is Niels (Mikkelsen), a doctor at the hospital who comforts her at the urging of his wife Marie (Steen), who happens to be the woman who hit The Joach in the first place. To his surprise, Niels starts falling hard for Cecile, who clings to him out of desperation and frustration with her inability to pierce Joachim's shell of anger and surliness, and it all leads to some messy emotional situations that don't get tidied up in the end.

A testament to the quality of this film is the fact that, even though the reels were out of order in the screening I saw, the crowd was extremely adamant in finding out how it ended - we all figured we may have missed something when it suddenly jumped forward chronologically, and the director tried to shut it down, but the crowd, as one, loudly bemoaned such a decision to the point where the director changed her mind and said 'well, okay, but realize this ain't exactly right.' It was easy to treat it like a big flashback sequence, and throughout it all, it maintained the mood of uneasy decisions and utter emotional confusion as Niels spirals downward into the mental chaos that infidelity brings with it.

See for yourself.

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