Review: Deliver Us From Evil
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A schizophrenics dream, Deliver us From Evil is as captivating as it is disturbing...
Film-maker, Ole Bornedal's (Nightwatch, Just Another Love Story) disturbing tale “begins in the sticks [where] the road only leads backwards and forwards” in “a snug haven for smug people”. A female narrator walks towards the camera introducing the lead characters in the small town Deliver Us From Evil is set.
All appears hunky-dory as we meet Bornedal's cast in Amelie style character intros, until we're told “Anna is an angel but her heart is too big – Anna is going to die soon”. The children's innocent questioning of their mother (“Is it OK to hit evil people?”) is another subtle indication the mood will soon change.
After learning of Anna's imminent fate, Lars' (Jens Andersen) first appearance leaves us second-guessing how he might be involved as we watch him drunkenly driving a truck; miserably thinking about his now pregnant girlfriend, Scarlett (Pernille Vallentin). Our helpful narrator reaffirms he's unbalanced (“Tired of the Lord not giving a shit”) and before we know it, one of the most powerful scenes of the film is in full swing as a motorbike road accident gradually unfolds, emulating the slow-motion reality experienced by those involved.
In shock and panic, Lars frames Alain (Bojan Novojec), a local known as “The Negro” or “Bosnian Beast” employed by Lars' brother, Johannes (Lasse Rimmer). He's quick to corroborate his framing, highlighting the hymn book sheets he planted in Alain's jacket and successfully inciting racial hatred, despite making a big deal out of not being racist. Described as like “an open wound” and the “last in line when the Lord handed out fates”, Lars is not an instantly likable character, weeing alongside his companions under the beer tent bench, making incoherent speeches and blatantly abusing Scarlett. Other more tender moments with Scarlett and his sister-in-law, Pernille (Lene Nystrøm), reveal another side to Lars.
As Anna's husband, Ingvar (Mogens Pedersen) movingly screams for blood (“I wouldn't be human without her”); small earlier touches later take on greater significance. It becomes clear why the police are interested in Alain's (Bojan Novojec) file, deeming him to be psychologically imbalanced. Johannes powerful nail gun suddenly comes in handy. The narrator's brief backstory of Ingvar's history and emphasis of his mindset help explain his extreme reaction: “Ingvar's grief has devoured his soul from within”.
From the surreally charming character introductions, Bornedal plunges us into scenes of carnal violence. Lars brutally beats his ex's new bed buddy; mob mentality transforms into a party with loud music and topless ladies; bricks and molotov cocktails are thrown; townsfolk are murdered and a women survives multiple rape, quietly sound-tracked by amplified bird song.
In deciding whether to sacrifice Alain to save themselves, the characters of the film open a “gate to hell”, each revealing their own individual evil inclinations that gradually take over from their rationale. Through the two opposing brothers, Bornedal opens up the old nature-versus-nurture debate, using Johannes as his mouth piece to voice controversial opinions.
Freeze-frames, flash-backs and scenes re-run complement the film's story-telling structure. Arty postcard shots resemble wider America in keeping with the idea of terrorist fears. Monochrome and dark colour tones represent the film's grim subject-matter, perfectly accompanied by dramatic string music. Beautiful repeated shots of clouds create the illusion of characters almost despairingly looking up to the heavens for God's guidance and judgement. Particularly powerful scenes during the film's climax include light shining through Johannes' smashed door and Ingvok saying The Lord's Prayer as events shockingly escalate.
Instantly captivating, Deliver Us From Evil is a quiet builder and can almost be seen as a two part film with the final 30 minutes starkly contrasting to the slow suspense of the first hour. Silence is traditionally 'golden' but Bornedal's silences are brutal, forcing us to brace ourselves for the worst. Uncomfortable but compelling, the film's comparable to Straw Dogs but much more ground-breaking in its genre-defying style.
• The Making of Deliver Us From Evil
• The Themes Featurette
The 'Making Of' featurette compensates for an unilluminating 90 second Themes feature, mixing film clips with cast commentary and two three minute interviews with the film's two main couples (Lars and Scarlett, Johannes and Pernille). Although a tad repetitive and mostly narrative, The Making Of does at least give insight into the film's West Jutland setting (“God's own sceneography”) and set creations. Revealing shoots show Ole Bornedal in action giving inspirational speeches to crew members. Most interesting is the very honest interview Bornedal gives, explaining how he used his own early lifestyle as a basis for the film and his claim to have created the “first Danish beer tent film”.
Director/Writer: Ole Bornedal
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date: April 9 2012
Studio: Axiom Films
Running Time: 93 mins
Starring: Lasse Rimmer, Lene Nystrøm, Fanny Bornedal, Jens Andersen, Mogens Pedersen, Bojan Novojec, Pernille Vallentin
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