THE NORDIC FILM FESTIVAL: The inaugural Nordic Film Festival serves up a Danish thriller on its opening night in Melbourne.
A collaboration between The Royal Danish Embassy, the Finnish Embassy, the Royal Norwegian Embassy and the Swedish Embassy, the inaugural Nordic Film Festival consisted of eight separate films screened over three days in Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne. Different films opened the festival in each city, with the Danish WWII drama Flammen & Citronen
(Flame & Citron) selected to open the Melbourne leg of the program.
Based on a true story, with both plot and dialogue adapted from eyewitness accounts, Flame & Citron
stars Thure Lindhardt as 23-year old Bent Faurschou-Hviid, codenamed Flammen (‘The Torch’) because of his distinctive red hair; and Mads Mikkelsen (best known to Western audiences as the villainous Le Chiffre in the 2006 Bond film Casino Royale) as 33-year old Jørgen Haagen Schmith, aka Citronen (‘The Lemon’), two Danish partisans charged with killing traitors in Nazi-occupied Copenhagen in 1944.
Flammen is a cool assassin whose moral code forbids him to kill women, although he’s happy to shoot down Nazi collaborators in cold blood in broad daylight. The sweaty, disheveled Citronen is far less comfortable with his role as a killer for the Resistance, a conflicted family man whose loyalty to his country is slowly estranging him from his wife. As the war drags on, both men find the moral ground slipping away beneath their feet.
While Citronen struggles to maintain his marriage, Flammen begins a new relationship with Ketty Selmer (Stine Stengade), who may or may not be a double agent, and whose actions evoke the classic Hollywood femme fatale. (Indeed, much of the film’s unvarying tone recalls the complex plots of films noir.) Simultaneously, both men begin to fear that their commanding officer, Aksel Winther (Peter Mygind) is neither as loyal nor as honest as he seems.
This web of duplicity and conflicted morality makes for a fascinating film, although frustratingly the director fails to forge an emotional connection with the audience. The result is a movie which never quite fully engages despite superb performances, striking cinematography, and deft, effective storytelling.
The period is wonderfully evoked through costume and production design, as well as snippets of archival footage showing the Nazi invasion of Copenhagen; and Madsen’s decision to depict war as a morally ambiguous struggle is a brave one in these uncertain times.
Less a film about noble partisans fighting the good fight, and more about the way even the noblest of intentions can lead one astray in the fog of war, Flame & Citron is a dense, dark and ambitious tale, and one of the most successful (and most expensive) Danish films to date.
Flammen & Citronen (Flame & Citron)
Directed by Ole Christian Madsen
Screenplay by Lars Andersen & Ole Christian Madsen
Stars Thure Lindhardt, Mads Mikkelsen & Stine Stengade
Executive Producer Sonja B. Zimmer
Original Score by Karsten Fundal
Cinematography by Jørgen Johansson
Edited by Søren B. Ebbe
Production Design by Friborg Nanna Due & Jette Lehmann
The Nordic Film Festival