By Craig Wright
There are a fair few people that I’ve spoken to over the years that are always sceptical of going to see a film that isn’t made in the English language. Which is a shame for them, because they’d have missed out on some of the most entertaining and fantastic pictures of recent years. Witness the incredible Untouchable from France a few years ago – still one of my favourite films of all time -, Samba, again made in France, and the cult Italian classic Cinema Paradiso. All great films, none made in English.
A War is not quite at the level of those films, but it stands alone as an impressive piece of film making. Denmark’s submission to the Academy for Best Foreign Language Film, the film stars Pilou Asbaek (Kasper Juul in the critically acclaimed Danish TV drama Borgen) as commanding officer Claus Pedersen as he leads his army squadron on patrol after patrol in Afghanistan, whilst his wife tries to maintain a sense of order at home for their three young children. However, a snap decision whilst under attack puts Pedersen’s military career and his family life under strain, with his fate in the hands of a judge.
It’s an unusual film in a sense, as the film-makers immediately separate the two main plot lines. Asbaek is very convincing as a soldier who puts the welfare of his troops first and deals with the consequences later, and manages to switch from sympathetic to intense in the blink of an eye. However, he is matched in the acting stakes by Tuva Novotny, his on-screen wife. Not someone the majority of people in this country will have heard of, she’s destined for big things if her performance in this film is anything to go by.
The cinematography is also fully deserving of all the plaudits that this film is receiving. The camera work during the battle scenes in Afghanistan is superbly shot, with the result being that you feel immersed in the action as grenades, gunfire and gore are going on around you. There’s also a candidate for best use of a sliding door in film, as the director uses it to great effect in emotional moments.
A film that leaves you drained at the end, A War will make sure it has your attention right up until the very end. The only criticism that could be levelled at it is that it takes a little bit of time to get going, but the storytelling and some powerful acting more than makes up for it. If this is the first foreign film you go and see, it won’t be the last.
For more films and shows like A War, check out the Macrobert Arts Centre’s website.