Monday, September 22, 2008

Fear Me Not

Kristian Levring | 2008 | 95 mins | Denmark

Probably among the very best TIFF films I saw this year, but sadly I didn't actually get to it until the festival was over, so I couldn't include it in my top three, where it most definitely deserves to be.

Fear Me Not is the latest effort by Kristian Levring, one of the Dogme95 guys, whose last effort, 2002's The Intended I had intentionally skipped because his previous work, The King is Alive, left me somewhat cold in spite of the beautiful, sun-bleached cinematography and the presence of the ever-charming Jennifer Jason Leigh. But that's neither here nor there. This film is totally amazing.

It stars my favourite hot-but-severe-looking Dane, Ulrich Thomsen (of Thomas Vinterberg's The Celebration, the first and to my mind only truly brilliant Dogme film), alongside the talented and ubiquitous (in Danish cinema, at least) Paprika Steen. The two play Mikael and Sigrid, a successful married couple whose comfortable existence (in an architectural wonder by an idyllic lake with their essentially-perfect teenage daughter) is about to be thrown off course when Mikael takes an abrupt leave of absence from work and decides, seemingly just out of boredom, to enter into a drug trial for a new anti-depressant at his brother in law's hospital.

Though the drug isn't supposed to have any effects, Mikael begins immediately noticing differences in his daily life, his interactions with his family, his relationship with the world itself. Becoming more introspective and more isolated, Mikael finds himself drifting away from his loved ones and into a world of total self-absorption and delusion.

A subtle and disquieting psychological study of alienation, Fear Me Not points a clinical eye at the disintegrating family. Incredible performances by all, especially Thomsen, who's got a driving scene in this film which absolutely chilled me to the bone for its ability to turn my sympathy for the character into a sort of blood curdling discomfort.

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