International Federation of Film Critics.
(...) Danish director Peter Schønau Fog also shows a lot of talent. In The Art of Crying he develops another horrifying and strong story. Based on the novel of Erling Jepsen, it shows a family in the south of Jutland in the 70s, whose harmony rests in the possibilities to calm the emotional non-equilibrium of the father, an egotistical and hysterical individual enjoying Schubert's lieder and suffering from crisis of crying with threats of suicide. The only one to calm him is his 14-year-old daughter, whose ingenuous younger brother always convinces her to sleep with the father, although in his innocence the boy doesn't know that what happens between father and daughter is a crime. A terrible and raw secret, also shared by the pusillanimous mother of the children and their older brother, who has left home to study but at his return, sees with impotence how the things at home are still the same.
With a story as this, we would be able to speak of a classical Nordic melodrama, tragic and severe. But the surprising thing is how the director achieves that The Art of Crying stands always on the thin line that divides drama from comedy. He holds a delicate balance that also includes black humor, tenderness and charm. The story is shown from a child's point of view, which is faced to complex situations (not recommendable for someone of this age) and never understands the gravity and sordidness of the situation. Although seeing the way his brothers are acting may tell him that something is not well at all. The plot develops without neglecting its literary origins, but as not many movies dare to do, is divided in chapters, each one dedicated to a character. So the events are made still clearer for the audience, leading to a powerful, captivating and sensitive human portrait in which the performances are fundamental: the two children, Jannik Lorenzen and Julie Kolbech, are true revelations, and as the father Jesper Asholt gives a spectacular performance.
Its formal characteristics – cinematography, music and art direction are excellent — would make this film what is called a "quality film", one that its country selects as candidate for an Academy Award in the best foreign language film’s category. It's true that the narration is traditional and the film has classical visuals, but that does not lessen the emotions of the story, splendidly guided by Schønau Fog, who never uses easy means to move the audience, although it would have been easy doing so, knowing that he had to direct children actors in a incest and abuse story. As Erik Richter Strand in Sons, the filmmaker knows how to create a work with popular leanings, that we can call a genre piece, but it goes a lot further. These are two stimulating debuts from two filmmakers, two new names to follow.
© FIPRESCI 2006
Joel Poblete is a journalist and film critic based in Santiago de Chile. He has worked on cultural subjects for Chilean TV, radio and papers and is now a movie critic in the magazine Capital. He is one of the founders and still member of the Chilean critics' publication