Saturday, May 21, 2011

"In a Better World" and "Winter in Wartime"

While “Winter in Wartime” is very much like a Hollywood epic with a really straight forward narrative, “In a Better World” has a more European flavor with a more complex structure and multiple themes such as grief and guilt, revenge and empathy. “In a Better World,” ) aptly combines the intimate story of two families with a bigger world crisis to examine the effect of violent verses non-violent responses to bullying on all levels of society.

With his parents on the verge of divorce, ten year old Elias' (Markus Rygaard) needs his father (Mikael Persbrandt) more than ever. But his father divides his time and attention between his family in Denmark and his work as a doctor at a refugee camp in Africa. Elias is getting bullied everyday at school until the new kid, Christian, (William Johnk Neilson) stands up to the bully and ends up with a bloody nose. Christian, full of rage from his mother's recent death, goes after the bully for revenge. This violent act brings the two troubled boys together. After a meeting with the school principal, Christian's dad lectures, “You can't just go around beating people up. It doesn't solve anything.” Christian responds with a look of complete disdain at discovering how out of touch his father is with his world. “No one will dare hit me now,” he explains. Elias' father, who has dedicated himself to relieving the pain of others, tries to explain to his son why this is morally wrong, “You hit him, he hits you. What kind of world would we have.” His father gets the opportunity to demonstrate to the boys that it takes more courage to turn the other cheek when the town bully hits him. Unfortunately, that is not the lesson the boys learn. Christian plots a scheme to get revenge on the bully that hit Elias' weak father. Back in Africa, the doctor's morals are tested when he must treat an evil psychopath who has been stabbing pregnant women in the village. Again, his morals are tested when he finds that Christian has dragged Elias into his revenge scheme. Will he see Christian as an evil psychopath or a wounded boy like his own? We learn that there are no easy answers, but the cycle of violence may never end without empathy and forgiveness.

Susanne Bier, director of Oscar winner, "In a Better World," 
Susanne Bier's, Best Foreign Language Film winner,“In a Better World,” is relevant to our times as we continue to suffer from the effect of bullying on a local, national, and worldwide level. These two films remind us of the importance of understanding and that the fine line between good and evil is not always black and white.

Movie Blessings!
Jana Segal

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