Film : Special screenings of thriller at Capawock
If World War II history buffs in particular will relish the Danish Resistance thriller "Flame & Citron," every filmgoer will appreciate its high quality and powerful storytelling. It plays at the Capawock Theatre on Sunday, Nov. 29, at 4 pm and again on Wednesday, Dec. 2, at 7:30 pm as part of the Emerging Pictures digital network that also brings opera to the Island.
Set in Copenhagen in 1944, "Flame & Citron" is based on the true story of two Danish partisans whose mission is to assassinate collaborators, German officers, and spies. Flame (Thure Lindhardt) has acquired his code name because of his bright red hair. Sent to Germany by his hotelier father to learn to be a chef, he has grown to hate the Nazis. His partner, Citron (Mads Mikkelsen, Le Chiffre in "Casino Royale") earned his name by sabotaging German cars and trucks at a Copenhagen Citroen plant.
The most expensive film ever made in Denmark, "Flame & Citron" is lushly produced and finely acted. The cinematography is handsome, without being intrusive, and at times quite innovative. A safe house, for example, is centered like a still shot from an architectural magazine, and a graphic love scene could be a work of art through editing and accordion-like repetition. If the dialogue at first sounds as if it might have come from the Fifties TV series "Dragnet," it gains momentum as the complexities of events fold in on themselves.
Director Ole Christian Madsen says he was influenced by Jean-Pierre Melville's 1969 film about the French resistance, "Army of Shadows." He has crafted a screenplay with Lars Andersen that weaves the facts into both character studies and an investigation of moral issues. The viewer cannot help but appreciate the characters' humanity, and will surely come away with unanswerable questions about war.
While the film centers on Flame and Citron, supporting characters -- a Gestapo leader, a courier, a police solicitor. At age 23, Flame seems to have molded himself into a hardened killer. Then he meets Ketty Selmer (Stine Stengade) and falls in love. Where do Ketty's loyalties really lie?
Citron, who has a wife and daughter, is given to attacks of nerves, sweating profusely and occasionally vomiting out of sheer anxiety. The leader of their Holger Danske resistance cell wonders if Citron should take time off in Sweden to get a grip on himself, and his wife threatens to leave him.
The two men gradually find themselves floundering in a morass of conflicting motives and values. The first time they are assigned to kill a German colonel, the man persuades Flame that he is a patriot.
Initially Flame refuses to kill women, but when Citron bungles a hit on one suspected of Nazi collaboration, he steels himself and finishes her off. Each of these two men finds himself in his own particular hell.
As the audience watches Flame & Citron struggle, the immoral nature of war becomes tragically clear. They come to understand that there is no exit from their moral dilemma.
In the end, both men are celebrated as national heroes, but heroes have clay feet. "Flame & Citron" serves as an excellent antidote to the American penchant for superheroes.
"Flame & Citron," at the Capawock in Vineyard Haven Sunday, November 29, at 4 pm, and Wednesday, Dec. 2 at 7:30 pm.
Brooks Robards writes about art, literature, and film for The Times.