When Susanne Bier won the Oscar for Best Foreign Film earlier this year, she joined an elite club of only a handful of women ever to have been nominated for a direction related Academy Award for a second time. To take home the statuette must have made that important occasion that much sweeter. And fully deserved it was too, for her new film, ‘In A Better World’, is a beautiful and expertly crafted film, which effectively demonstrates her breadth of experience and skill as one of Europe’s most foremost filmmakers.
The melodrama tells the story of two inexplicably intertwined families. Commuting from his home in Denmark, Anton is a doctor at an African refugee camp, who is separated from his wife Marianne with whom he has two young sons. The eldest, Elias, is being bullied at school. That is until Christian, a troubled young boy who has just moved from London with his father after the death of his mother, quickly forms a bond with the vulnerable and more passive Elias. Christian is entirely preoccupied with exacting revenge on those around him, inevitably leading to some unexpected and dangerous consequences for both families.
Juxtaposing an apparently civilized Danish society with the chaos of a lawless and corrupt African society, Bier’s film deals with some complex moral ideas about retribution, forgiveness, how adults and children view the world differently and trying to control worlds and individuals that simply cannot be controlled. Although at times in danger of becoming a sermon, it is a refreshing taste of what cinema can be when it genuinely sets out to explore interesting concepts and ask pertinent questions. Worth every penny of the admission price.
In A Better World is out now.