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Bob Doto [Film Festival 04.24.09] movie review drama

Year: 2008
Directors: Kristian Levring
Writers: Kristian Levring & Anders Thomas Jensen
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: Bob Doto
Rating: 5.5 out of 10

FEAR ME NOT is a film about a man who is both a loving father and a disconnected husband. Said father is really unhappy with the way his six-month leave from his career has turned out. His friend (a doctor) hips him to a medical experiment testing drugs for depression. Disenchanted dad wants in. Friend is not so sure about it, but gives in. Things are going fine, but not great (effects are subtle but positive). However, dad, like some of the other patients, starts to experience some of the unforeseen side effects, namely sadism with a touch of emotional detachment. Experiment is called off. Dad secretly keeps up the pill popping. Things turn to not-so-great, but frankly could be worse (more about this later). There’s the necessary climax, but you’re kinda like, “Was that it?” Then a little wrap-up jumps out from around the corner to make it tidy and the film ends. No one claps and you walk out thinking about the weather and if you should take the Q- or F-train home.

Kinda luke warm on the whole thing? Yeah. Me too.

Writer/Director Kristian Levring is probably best known as one of the founders of the Dogme95 movement and for his film The King is Alive. Naturally, I was excited about seeing FMN, because, hey, Levring’s a Dogme guy, so, that means something. Apparently that only means something if you’re actually making a Dogme film.

FMN is not a Dogme film, but here’s the good of what you get if you slap down the money to see it. FMN will give you some really quality acting by two leads (mom, Sigrid, [played by Paprika Steen, The Celebration, The Idiots] and dad, Mikael, [played by Ulrich Thomsen, The Celebration]). Double Celebration features! Makes you want to see it, right? Not to mention the daughter played by Emma Sehested Høeg gives a stunning little performance of her own. You also get a pretty uncomfortable scene or two of the increasingly creepy dad perving out all over a teenage girl. Not bad. Makes you think. Begs a few questions about adulthood and the satisfaction gained from living the good life. But that’s pretty much it. A movie.

As far as story-meets-cinematography goes FMN contains all the Danish Dogme cinematic tropes. Sprawling countryside, well-off but ironically disillusioned white people, scandalous sex, marital problems, and a lens palate consisting of enough dark blues and yellow ochres to make the late great Bob Ross drool. Problem is? Ain’t nothin’ doin’ without a little directorial restrictions. Hence, why only the very few should stray from the manifesto.

The thing about Dogme is that you can literally take a crap on set, film it, use only natural lighting and sound, use no off-site props, cut it, print it and screen it, and it will somehow be genius. That’s the beauty of the movement. Take those restrictions away, and what you’re left with is a pretentious pile o’ pooh. Unfortunately that’s sort of what I feel I got served this evening. A biiiiiiiiig ooooooooooole pile…. You get it.

The film suffers mostly from it’s “not quite a thriller, not quite a drama” complex. Normally I’d be all for that. The Hindu philosophy known as Advaita Vedanta calls this “neti neti,” loosely translated as “not this, not that.” Neti neti, however, ultimately leaves the spiritual aspirant with a realization of Divine Reality. FMN? Not so much. By contrast, FMN leaves me with a film that doesn’t really know what it wants to be and I’m like, “Well if you don’t know, then I’m not gonna figure it out for ya.”

For example, one of the major themes throughout the film is the estranged relationship between husband and wife. So important is this lack of luster between the two characters that it makes up half of Mikael’s reason for even beginning the medical tests. Problem is, I barely even realized there was a problem. Perhaps it says more about me and my family, but I didn’t see what the big deal was between mommy and daddy. So, mom didn’t want to have sex one afternoon. Hell, sign up for a David Deida workshop and learn how to open each other’s hearts up to radical tantric bliss. You’ve clearly got enough pennies in the penny jar to set you up lakeside where you go rowing with your buddy every other day. Why not spend some of those Danish Krones on some couples counseling? Stop being so lazy!

Frankly, the only way I can see saving this film is to either A. make it a really run-of-the-mill story about how the well-off are ultimately well-disappointed, or B. run it through the Dogme-o-matic, leave in a few accidental boom-mic-in-frame scenes, and let one of your “actors” glance at the camera. Do that and I’m all over this. Right now, I’m just wanting to Netflix The Idiots.

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Jack O (14 years ago) Reply

that's about the worst review I have ever read.

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