In A Better World
In a Better World is a slow and thoughtful film, that begins in a Sudanese refugee camp where a Swedish doctor, Anton, shares his time. Back at home in Denmark is son Elias, is being bullied and his wife, unable to forget his implied affair, is seeking divorce.
Christian is the new boy at school, having just arrived from London with his father. He is seated next to Elias. They strike up a friendship, and Christian becomes the focus of the bullies as well. With pent up rage from the death of his mother still burning on the inside, Christian exacts a brutal revenge on the main bully, cementing his friendship with Elias.
But this only sets off a series of events that will have everyone’s worlds spinning out of control.
At times In a Better World is slow and confusing, but it also has a raw beauty and a clear message that speaks out against glamorising violence – something the media and films are normally accused of doing.
It’s interesting to note that the film’s original title is Hævnen and the literal translation is The Revenge. In A Better World might be an easier title to sell, but revenge is more appropriate for a film that asks questions as; can revenge ever be justified or does violence lead to more violence? Does turning the other cheek really work or does it make the problem worse?
Suzanne Bier doesn’t offer up any easy answers – there are the obvious answers that the story illustrates, but none have the absolute moral high ground. What is the best way to respond to bullies, be them school kids, adults or warlords? What is the place of the parent, does helping people in the third world negate the fact that you are absent from your child’s life? Should a father avoid his son who blames him for his mothers death?
With questions like this it’s easy to see why In a Better World walked away with and Oscar and a Golden Globe. It’s a long way from Hollywood’s popcorn fueled entertainment, but it certainly engages the cerebrum.
Reviewed by: Jonathan