Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Flame and Citron: when the Nazis arrived

Melbourne International Film Festival 2009

Ole Christian Madsen’s Flame and Citron presents two riveting characters who are fighting for the motherland in Copenhagen, 1944. Their job is assassination, ruthless and usually cold-blooded. Their usual targets, who are chosen for them, are Danish collaborators with the Nazis.

This is a violent, bloody story based on real people and events. The rules, if there are any, do not preclude collateral damage. Women and children are among the innocent victims of their deadly resistance to the occupation. Not shooting first is a dangerous manoeuvre as Flame discovers.

Thure Lindhardt plays Bent Faurschou-Hviid, the red-haired young assassin of the duo, with style and control. His love interest is the brooding Ketty Selmer (Stine Stengade ), a worthy femme fatale and Mata Hari.

Mads Mikkelsen’s portrayal of the very troubled Jørgen Haagen Schmith, the car mechanic and driver, is superb. The worse his marriage becomes, the more Jørgen becomes involved with the killing, culminating in a colossal Hollywood style confrontation with the German army.

Their network, based on the Holger Danske resistance group, leads a charmed life for the first half of the movie. They meet openly in front of the local Gestapo.

This is a powerful exploration of the lives of these tow national heroes, as personal morality is discarded for patriotism. We are often reminded that this is war. As well as the Nazi war and intelligence machines, they also face divisions, intrigues, political expediency and betrayal in their ranks.

The film’s main weakness is its implausibility. Bent and Jørgen seem invisible to their enemies for most of the story. They are virtually bullet-proof as well. The pair makes several undetected trips to Stockholm for high level resistance meetings. The Nazis can’t have been that stupid or ineffective, though truth is often stranger...

Flame and Citron is part psychological suspense and part action movie. The former works more convincingly than the latter.

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