Eye For Film >> Movies >> Behaviour (2009) Film Review
Reviewed by: Andrew Robertson
"Have you done this sort of work before?" asks Erik. Julie is a carer. Her charges, two men who are developmentally challenged, mentally disabled. It is Lukas' birthday, but it's Mikkel who seems the most adult. That is to say that he has, is developing, feelings. A single night, then, a first one in this job for Julie - she has "only worked with the elderly". It is not without incident.
Behaviour is stunning. Jaw-droppingly powerful, harrowing. Discomfort surfaces throughout, retiring only to to return even more confusing, unsettling. As an industry, Danish film-making is not without controversy, nor talent, and this is closer to Antichrist than lighter fare. That's not to exaggerate its power - you will look differently at those around you afterwards, and they at you.
It starts with Erik, played with a caring but harried air by Hassan Preisler. He feeds the boys, the men, introduces Julie to her duties. All straightforward enough, until the phonecall, and Erik's departure. An absence that continues, and continues, until it is clear that something has gone wrong, that something is going wrong, that this is inappropriate behaviour.
Lukas is played by Nicolei Faber, also seen in Megaheavy. Mikkel is played by Nikolaj Dencker Schmidt, and while both are good it's Nikolaj who should be singled out. As he interacts with Julie, she grows concerned until there is an incident. Malou Reymann is fantastic. Though written and directed by Daniel Borgman, this is her film. The calm processes of care, sending a text in a worried fashion, looking out into the snow - expression and range and ability turn this short into a triumph, albeit an uneasy one.
Beyond its quality as a film, the language it is filmed in and its actors, there are some elements that are further ineffably Danish: a vegetarian and waste-free production; not explicitly Dogme but naturalistically lit; and mention must be made of the production company's logo, the Two Little Ghosts suggesting Inky and Blinky and a little hop. It's a tiny thing, worth mentioning only because it suggests an attention to detail, one that's important to watching Behaviour.
Jonas Colstrup's music contributes to the tone, subtly, softly, Martin Top Jacobsen's cinematography as well. Set in and around a single house, there wouldn't seem to be an enormous variety of conditions, but the interiors, the weather, and then the power cut change things. The water and the wind persist, and as the evening passes unease becomes vulnerability becomes horror. Not the supernatural but the mundane - no less haunting for it, indeed, all the more so.
Watch it on Vimeo, below: