Open Hearts

"Excellent"

Open Hearts Review


Anyone who has suffered the pain in the gut after the loss of a loved one will have a special connection to this story coming to us from Denmark. Loss can have many meanings and here it's a matter of a sudden change of destiny and the disappearance of emotional fulfillment as a result of an accident. Moreover, it's a story that evolves as life does. A horror occurs, the people involved react, the change in situation produces new needs which lead to changes and consequences.

The relationship between beautiful, sexy Cecilie (Sonja Richter) and her lover Joachim (Nikolaj Lie Kaas) is fun and endearing and we soon care about these people whose bond is expressed by the playful manner in which Joachim asks Cecilie to marry him and how she responds in the affirmative. The following morning, Cecilie drops Joachim off for a planned trip and, as he springs from the car on the traffic side, is hit by a car. Suddenly, what seemed so sure and positive is wrenched into another dimension.

The woman who was driving the car that struck him immediately stops and tries to render assistance. We learn that she is Marie (Paprika Steen), mother of three and that her teenage daughter Stine (Stine Bjerregaard) (pronounced Steen) was in the car urging her mother to drive faster. Both mother and daughter are devastated by the event, taking their individual share of blame.

Joachim enters surgery at a hospital where Marie's husband Niels (Mads Mikkelsen) is the attending physician. While Cecilie waits for word of the surgery, Niels, at the urging of Marie, goes to her recognizing that care giving is a matter for all involved, not just the victim and not just a matter of medicine. Finally, the results come in the form of good news and bad. First, Joachim will live but, second, he is paralyzed from the neck down. When the surgeon lays out these facts for Joachim, the realization of what this means to his and Cecilie's relationship and the life they envisioned registers. Everything has been altered. Permanently. It is not mere shock we see on the faces of the characters, but in this dramatically pivotal moment we glimpse the unspoken interior dialogue, the struggle to align a new reality to their existence. In terms of acting, this moment of unspoken meaning alone is worth the price of admission.

Joachim's coping mechanism is to envelop himself in bitterness and the cold rejection of Cecilie. She won't accept it, though, and counters with repeat visits, her protestation of love, and the desire to take care of him always. Finally his demands drive her away and Cecilie is left with searing emptiness at the same time that the comforting relationship with Niels turns into a new, if tentative, fulfillment. Teenage Stine is the first in Niels' family to recognize the meaning behind her father's interest in Cecilie and she becomes the catalyst for a confrontation between her parents.

But what will happen in this marriage as a result? And what will become disrupted if Joachim has a change of heart about seeing Cecilie? The story moves into those ramifications as well as some unexpected ones with deliberate diagnostic detail. A fine understanding of human motivation makes for an absorbing drama laced with a brief dose of humor and a steady drip of irony. Its emotional accuracy suggests that one or both writers (Anders Thomas Jensen and Susanne Bier) have gone through some form of loss in their lifetimes to lend insight into the intricate patterns of behavior following the trauma of a great change in circumstances. Exploring them is a first rate ensemble of actors.

The production values demonstrate that a well-told story doesn't depend on a big budget. The filmmakers have chosen the minimalist Dogme style. From a filmmaker's perspective, this basis for excusing the low budget is nonsense, and it primarily means that no auxiliary lighting was employed. Cinematographer Morten Søborg turns this to his advantage by artfully using natural light and fast film. The hand-held camerawork, always a distraction, is acceptably done. But, to call it "documentary style" misunderstands the control differences between a scripted drama and the ad libbed, spontaneous nature of the documentary. This is distinctly the former and a fine expression of it if, at nearly 2 hours, it is a little on the long side.

Aka Elsker dig for evigt.



Facts and Figures

Run time: 113 mins

In Theaters: Friday 6th September 2002

Distributed by: Newmarket Films

Production compaines: Zentropa Entertainments, Det Danske Filminstitut

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 96%
Fresh: 54 Rotten: 2

IMDB: 7.7 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Starring: as Cecilie, as Joachim, as Niels, as Marie, as Stine, as Hanne, Niels Olsen as Finn, Ulf Pilgaard as Thomsen, Ronnie Lorenzen as Gustav, Anders Nyborg as Robert

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