I haven’t been watching very many movies lately. But of the movies I have been watching, Susanne Bier is standing out more than anyone else.
She’s this awesome director from my hometown, (Hjemland, if you will) Denmark. And she makes movies about mostly good – but flawed – people making mostly good – but sometimes regrettable – choices. All of her films are character-driven, slow-moving, microscopic looks at relationships. And even when parts of the film don’t work (usually the soundtrack choices), the performances she gets out of her actors are always incredible.
Even Halle Berry and David Duchovny! Now, you know I love me some Fox Mulder, but Duchovny’s somewhat of a one-track actor. He always plays a kind of obsessive ladies man with a quick wit. Not so in Things We Lost in the Fire. Do you remember seeing the trailers for this one? It was awful. They were packaging it as a drug fueled thriller, but there’s really nothing thrilling about it. Instead, like many of Bier’s films, it’s a movie about death and how you deal with death of loved ones. Looking past some of the cheesy lines, I think this is definitely the best film of both Berry and Duchovny’s careers. And may be the best of Benicio del Toro’s.
Most recently I watched her Dogme 95 film Open Hearts. It’s a really painful story, but she approaches the subject with so much honesty. You’d think that would be a staple of dogme 95 films, but that hasn’t really been my experience. I feel like many directors who work in the genre want to use the natural lighting and sets as a way to shock and disorient you. They use the human body as something ugly and greasy, ready to be injected with drugs that will bruise and disfigure it. Open Hearts takes the opposite approach, taking a realist approach to what could be an overly dramatic situation. There are affairs, car accidents, screaming matches, door slamming, and paralyzation, and yet the film is very quiet.
Susanne Bier. Check her out.