It's a mystery how Peter Schonau Fog manages to combine child abuse, a study of a rural community, affecting tragedy and black comedy into a satisfying whole, but in "The Art of Crying" he pulls it off. A gently offbeat study of a Jutland family in the early 1970s as seen through the merciless, innocent gaze of an 11 year-old boy, this refreshingly unconventional pic tackles its taboos with
compassion, grace and wit.
Jonathan Holland, Variety

Emotionally devastating and astonishingly mature, this is a unique feature debut. Steve Gravestock, Toronto International Filmfestival

A young Scandinavian genius tackles Bergmanesque themes of family taboos and relationships with pathos, humor, and a loving eye. Chiseko Tanaka, Tokyo International Film Festival

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Kunsten at Græde i Kor - Seattle Review

The Art of Crying - Review

Screened at the 33rd Annual Seattle International Film Festival

THE ART OF CRYING, which is making it’s North American debut at SIFF, shows us how one can learn very hard lessons very young, without ever leaving home. This well made, difficult film starts with its dark themes clearly visible, but skewed by the perspective of young Allan, an 11 year old trying to figure out how to fix the things that aren’t working in his home life. Allan’s sincere efforts, his misunderstandings, and his wobbly but developing value hierarchy offer quite a few moments of grim comedy in the first half of what develops into something of a tour de force of dysfunctional consequences. He’s a tough, independent kid whose frail looks and owl-like glasses belie a steely gaze. The power of his determination alone is adequate to quell the violent nature of even a put-upon local grocer. His loyalty and strength make him a useful ally in an ongoing familial battle of ‘who’s more worthy of sympathy.’

The filmmakers do very smart things with the tone of the movie. We follow willingly through the first measures, trusting our instinct that Allan’s voice wouldn’t lead us into anything too terrible. He’s a child though; he’s not seeing some important things. It’s an impressive feat of the movie to make his perspective so persuasive that we don’t really pay attention to them either. We continue to laugh along, well after things happen that demonstrate the inadequacy of his vision. The filmmakers manage this tension between what we know is happening (and how we would react to it outside the theater) and what Allan tells us is happening extremely well.

Other movies in recent memory have employed a child’s perspective to move the audience willingly into territory they certainly wouldn’t travel on their own. It has to be done without the audience feeling that their expectations have been betrayed. We’re not exactly surprised when things get difficult. We understand how the things we’ve accepted previously have landed us here, with Allan. It’s one of the gifts of the film that we are able to see Allan begin to understand it as well. In fact, among the numerous fine perfomances, Jannik Lorenzen’s turn as Allan is particularly outstanding. It’s a performance that is as courageous as the character he plays.

There are lots of individual lives at stake in this film, and a few souls. (In the sense of ‘what kind of person am I’ rather than ‘will I live forever after death.’) As the film progresses, we learn that some souls have already been lost. The question of whether loved ones can avoid a similar fate while attempting to help is central to the film. Tragically, the question is asked by a child—as in life it probably too often is.

There’s a lot to like in this film, but don’t believe any description that makes it sound anything less than heartbreaking—not in the Hollywood, tear jerker sense, but in the sense of ‘breaking your heart.’ It’s as painful as it sounds. The audience will rise slowly when the credits start to roll, and then leave the theater quietly. It’s so well made though—from script, to direction, to cinematography, sound, and the excellent performances throughout. For those able to stomach the kind of journey into the dark places of human experience that good cinema is able to deliver, this movie is well worth the time and the price of admission.

--Steve Toutonghi