A War (Krigen), Danish filmmaker Tobias Lindholm’s third feature, tells the story of a soldier and his struggle to keep it all together. Commanding officer Claus M. Pedersen operates between pressure in Afghanistan and home.
Filmed in Copenhagen and Turkey, Lindholm provides a visually believable backdrop for this thinking man’s war film. Pilou Asbæk plays Pedersen, a Company Commander, the officer in charge of a Danish military base. A thoughtful and caring dad of three, he has also become a father figure to his company. Perdersen cares deeply for the soldiers under his command and takes his role very seriously. While holding his men together, he also makes an effort to support his wife as best he can. The film regularly shifts between his military life in Afghanistan and his wife Maria in civilian life at home in Denmark.
Most of the cast is made up of real soldiers, most of whom have served in Afghanistan, and Afghan refugees which help to give a genuine realism to this documentary style film. Shot in steady cam fashion, this hand held camera style also assists the narrative by drawing in the audience to this realistic feature. Lindholm provides a glimpse of daily life on the base, and the down time between patrols, compared with parallels back home in Denmark. Scenes like this increase the depth and credibility, and assist with the pace of the entire film. The dialogue is well written with an assured use of silence that also aids the pace and realism of each scene.
We follow Pedersen and his men through their routine operations and see how they juggle their mission procedures with helping the locals. Showing one or two successful missions, before things get messy, is a tried and tested convention that works very well on this occasion. This built up confidence in the soldiers helps to boost the tension that the audience feel in following scenes. When caught in an intense firefight the squad find themselves trapped by an unknown number of enemies and the viewer experiences their panic. Under extreme pressure, Pedersen takes drastic measures to save his men. The anxiety continues as Pedersen is faced with the consequences and the affect this will have on his career and family life. As the story progresses, the audience are given time to digest the events as Pedersen returns home to his wife.
We are reminded of the abnormal and life threatening situations soldiers are faced with and the snap decisions they are forced to make. As civilians, we can only imagine the pressure these soldiers go through and how it effects their mental state. Pedersen exhibits his understanding of this through his focus on providing support for his subordinates. The viewers are drawn into the ensuing discussion of right and wrong, the decisions Pedersen has made and the choices he is faced with. His personal ethics and morals are questioned and the viewer may very well query their own.
Tobias Lindholm is well known for displaying a man under pressure in his work. The Hunt (2012), where a male teacher becomes a outcast of his community, is a good example of this examination. A War, although it has potential to raise questions about Denmark’s involvement in Afghanistan, manages to keep politics out of the conversation as the director explores the affects of anxiety. The survival instinct is a powerful drive and serves as a huge aspect in this exploration of human nature versus right and wrong. Without highlighting heroes or villains, the conversation is left open to interpretation and the viewer can draw their own conclusions.
If you are seeking an action movie with a massive kill count then this probably is not the film for you. But if you enjoy a well crafted anti-war film brimming with humanity then check this out.
See this if you liked:
The Hurt Locker (2008)
[Image: Krigen Film]