Into the Darkness – Moments of brilliance are lost in a confused narrative

Into the Darkness is available to rent or buy from March 5th

Anders Refn’s sweeping tale of family life in Denmark as the Nazi’s swept into the country with little resistance is a rather odd beast of a movie. First, with a runtime of 156 minutes, covering multiple years in one family’s life, it is epic in construct. Second, its visuals are rich and lovingly crafted; of course, we would expect nothing less from Refn, whose career as an editor included Antichrist, Ginger and Rosa and The Party. And Third, performances are strong, engaging and full of heartfelt emotion. So why, I hear you ask, is Refn’s film not holding a four, or even five-star review?

The answer to this question is simple; Into the Darkness, while epic, beautiful and engaging, is ultimately hollow. Its story far too wide-reaching for the runtime it holds, despite its length. Of course, it is possible the film was designed to be played in two parts; however, at this point, there is no talk of a second feature. Added to this perplexing structure, the abrupt final scenes leave the audience cold and frustrated. All in all, this creates a movie that, while beautiful in construct and performances, feels unsatisfying.

Karl (Jesper Christensen) is a factory owner in a quiet corner of Denmark. The war raging across Europe a distant, worrisome but untouchable conflict as the film opens. However, when a lavish family party to mark his 25th wedding anniversary to Eva (Bodil Jørgensen) is invaded by german planes dropping fliers, it is clear the once distant war has reached Danish shores. And as the Nazi’s sweep into town, promising prosperity, security and partnership, Karl and Eva’s family finds itself torn in two. Their eldest son Aksel (Mads Reuther) joining an anti-Nazi underground group. At the same time, Karls son from his first marriage (Gustav Dyekjær Giese) joins the Danish army to fight side by side with the German troops. Meanwhile, the couples youngest daughter Helene (Sara Viktoria Bjerregaard), is swept off her feet by a German U-boat officer.

Into the Darkness would have benefited from a TV mini-series format, allowing for an episodic structure alongside a possible 5-6 hour runtime. This format could have enabled Refn to explore his characters fully, alongside their motivations and beliefs as the War took hold. The result, a Danish take on the exquisite german mini-series Generation War. However, as a single (if lengthy) film, Into the Darkness finds itself lost in the broad canvas it creates. Too short in giving voice to the stories and historical discussions it attempts to raise. While at the same time frustratingly sharp and confusing in its bizarre finale. However, that does not mean Into the Darkness is a mere average film; in fact, it has moments of brilliance. But despite this remains at times, confusing and lost in its own narrative.

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