BFI London Film Festival presents The Outlaws (De fredløse); book festival tickets here.
Two men sit in a 1920s Chevrolet staring through the windshield as the car creaks and moans, its radiator hissing. Blood trickles down the face of the young driver as he looks to his side for what might be the last time, and another young man looks back. Meanwhile, armed police stand just metres before them, waiting to shoot. The young men in question are Mikeal (Filip Berg) and Johannes (Åsmund Høeg), and their images adorn wanted posters for armed robbery and murder. However, as they look at each other in the car, it’s hard to believe that the youngest, Johannes, could have committed such crimes; his eyes full of tears, his mouth quivering.
Inspired by a true story, writer-director Henrik Martin Dahlsbakken offers us a dream-like exploration of a dangerous love between two drifters. One, Mikeal, is violent but charming, leaving destruction and pain in his wake, while the other, Johannes, is desperate to find love and companionship. Dahlsbakken weaves together their journey through a series of flashbacks, slowly building his tapestry of a short but life-changing relationship. It’s clear from the outset that Johannes is attracted to Mikael, but Mikael’s love is far more challenging to unpick. Many will draw parallels with Bonny and Clyde and while this is clearly part of the inspiration, Dahlsbakken’s film also celebrates Dicken’s in its atmosphere. Here Johannes is a vulnerable and impressionable Oliver to Mikael’s streetwise, world-weary and complicated Dodger.
Rooted in themes of escape, manipulation acceptance and love, The Outlaws is both joyous and tragic as one man finds everything he needs in all the wrong places.
ROAD TO PERDITION
Many will find The Outlaws single character focus problematic, their need for a deeper joint narrative encompassing Mikael and Johannes overwhelming. Equally, many may find the narrative structure challenging to follow as it bounces between time frames. But, this is very much the story and journey of Johannes.