On Monday, October 23, the Department of Theater and Film Studies kicked off their annual event: the International Film Series. It is an event that showcases internationally recognized films that have otherwise made their mark in the film industry. The starter of the series this year was the truth telling movie named In a Better World directed by Susanne Bier.
Susanne Bier is a Danish director who is changing the way the world looks at movies. Her main focus in all of her movies, no matter what the theme, is to demonstrate using family structures that are endangered by outside forces. The first of her films that were recognized by critics and made its way to America, was Broken Hearts (2002). Soon after that, another film of hers that made its way to America and then to the New York Film Festival was Brothers (2004), which was then remade by American producers and directors a couple years later. Finally, In a Better World (2010) was and is her most famous film to date and is even nominated for Bier’s first Oscar.
Bier claims that her motivation for this film was solely to “demystify Denmark”. She wants to make sure outside perspectives recognizes the harshness, cruelness, and violence that takes place in what the country is known for: being the most democratic and peaceful country in the world. It just comes to show that even the most peaceful places, can still have a dark side to them.
The story revolves around two middle-school aged boys, and their own individual struggles that eventually push them both to become overly stressed out and make bad choices. Elias, is a boy that is bullied for the way he looks at school, has an absent father because of his traveling job, and whose parents are all at the same time getting a divorce. Christian, is the other main protagonist who just recently lost his mother, and is struggling to deal with low self-esteem as well as the violence all around him.
Both of these young men are silent with their emotions, so all of their feelings are kept inside of them, only making their issues worse as time goes on. With all of these pressures pressing down on these two boys, it pushes them both to resolve their frustration and anger in aggressive and potentially dangerous ways. This not only affects them and their families, but also on other people as well.
The story also takes on another perspective by looking at Elias’ father, who was mentioned before as being constantly absent for his work. He is a doctor and surgeon in Africa, helping a tribe that is being attacked constantly by a terrorist group. Children are being kidnapped and harmed and women especially, are the targets of violence for the association.
Bier puts this portion into her film not only to look at the violence that is occurring in domestic areas like with the boys, but also looking at it from an international point of view. Or perhaps, she is demonstrating that any types of violence, no matter how small, can grow into something bigger and can affect a lot more people over time.
This film is an accurate demonstration of why aggression and brutality in the world needs attention, and eventually put to an end. Not only is it affecting people all around the world, but it could be happening right in our own backyards. In order to make the world a better and safer place for our children to grow up in, there needs to be recognition that everything and every place is not what is seems. Even places that seem to be just fine have some sort of dysfunction, and their needs to be something done about it.
The International Film Series occurs every Monday at the Atwood theater at 7pm. I highly recommend, if you have the time, to catch at least one of the films. It will not be a disappointment in the least, and hopefully one of the movies will have an impact on you as it has done to me.