Eight years after the Danish filmmaking collective Dogme95 issued their notorious "Vows of Chastity" extolling filmmakers to free their work of artificiality through a series of stringent prohibitions, Danish director Susanne Bier and writer Anders Thomas Jensen deliver a powerful drama that finally seems more about effective filmmaking than the Dogme manifesto. Cecilie (Sonja Richter) and her boyfriend, Joachim (Nikolaj Lie Kaas), were about to be married when a terrible accident abruptly changed the course of their lives forever. Stepping out of Cecilie's car onto a busy street, Joachim was struck down by a passing car driven by Marie (Paprika Steen), the wife of a successful physician, Niels (Mads Mikkelsen), and a mother of three. Joachim is rushed to the hospital, but the prognosis is devastating: The emergency room doctor tells Cecilie that the accident has left Joachim paralyzed from the neck down. Once he regains consciousness and realizes that he'll never walk again, Joachim becomes consumed by rage and self-pity, and cruelly shuts Cecilie out of his life. Marie, meanwhile, is plagued by guilt. The police assured her that the accident wasn't her fault, but Marie knows she was driving too fast and had been arguing with her teenage daughter, Stine (Stine Bjerregaard), minutes before the crash. She asks Niels to take special care of Cecilie, and even encourages him to answer her increasingly desperate late-night phone calls with personal visits to her apartment. What Marie doesn't realize is that her relatively sexless marriage has left her husband with needs that the bereft Cecilie, abandoned by Joachim, is ready to fulfill. Freed from generic conventions, complicated camera setups, production design and special effects — all of which are strictly forbidden by Dogme95 — Bier is able to boil her film down to a powerful essence: a series of intense confrontations between a group of carefully developed characters, acted by an uniformly excellent cast. She does, however, bend the rules a bit to produce more effective scenes. In the film's most audacious break with the ultra-realism of the Dogme program, Bier inserts grainy visualizations of what Cecilie wishes for at a given moment — a caress from the paralyzed Joachim, or a wave goodbye — directly into the action. Juxtaposed with the grim reality of Cecilie's life, the conceit brings extra poignancy to an already emotionally wrenching film.
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- Released: 2003
- Rating: R
- Review: Eight years after the Danish filmmaking collective Dogme95 issued their notorious "Vows of Chastity" extolling filmmakers to free their work of artificiality through a series of stringent prohibitions, Danish director Susanne Bier and writer Anders Thomas… (more)