Brotherhood/ Broderskab (Nicolo Donato, Denmark, 2009)

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Thure Lindhardt stars as Lars, an officer from a well-to-do and well-connected family who is effectively discharged from the military for making a pass at two sub-ordinates. At loose ends and disaffected, he joins a neo-Nazi skinhead group. He rises quickly through the ranks, finds fraternity there but falls in love with Jimmy (David Dencik), another former military man but from a lower class. Jimmy reciprocates Lars’ feelings and they enjoy a brief idyll before they’re discovered and all hell breaks loose.

It’s a melodramatic story, one with no way out for its protagonists, and very depressing to see. Why someone like Lars would join a neo-Nazi skinhead group rather than just dance his tits off at a skinhead night in some club and pick someone up on his way out is not made clear. In fact the film seems barely conscious of the place of the figure of the skinhead in gay erotic subcultures, much less that there might be anti-Nazi left-wing gay skinhead associations (what’s fetishized is the look — thin men, head shaved, Doc Martin boots under rolled-up tight jeans – and a ritualized violence in sex that can verge on the extreme: Cazzo films made the production of such films addressed to a gay market its specialism in porn).

David Dencik as Jimmy is very good: one can understand his wrench in giving up his ‘family’ for Lars. There’s a wonderful appearance also by Nicolas Bro, who some might remember from The Killing, as ‘Fatty’ the leader of the neo-Nazi gang. But the camera really focuses on Thure Lindhardt; he’s the reason to see the film; and not only because his superb performance in Keep the Lights On (Ira Sachs, USA, 2012) remains so memorable. Here, he comes across as goofy, calculating and un-theatrically masculine; that combination of ordinary and extraordinary that stars are said to have. The film has a wonderful scene where he’s in the shower, steam rising form his body, mouth open, gaze on Jimmy steady, longing  palpable, that is as wonderful an evocation of desire as I’ve seen on film.

I also liked that the film doesn’t condemn the skin-head gang outright. One does get a sense of the anxieties, fears and all kinds of social exclusions and oppressions that drive them to form such a ‘family’. However, it’s a film of very partial pleasures; there are too many things in the story that don’t quite make sense; the film has some beautiful shots but the direction and pacing of those shots sometimes feels purposeless; and overall, and in spite of my anticipation, I found the film a bit of a trial to sit through:  it’s not sexy enough to make up for its relative lack of insight.

José Arroyo

Seen at Kitoks Kinas, Vilnius, July 29th 2013

 

Broderskab

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