Flame And Citron

Flame And Citron


Reviewed by: Val Kermode

This drama about two fighters in the Holger Danske resistance group in the Second World War has been well received in Denmark and gained four award nominations. It claims to be based on actual events and opens with newsreel footage of the Nazis invading Denmark, with the voice of Flame as narrator.

It quickly becomes clear that this is no Black Book or Charlotte Gray, but a much grittier version of life as a resistance fighter. Flame (Thure Lindhardt) and Citron (Mads Mikkelsen) are the code names of the two young patriots who are sent out to shoot down Nazis and collaborators in cold blood. They are given their orders by Winther (Peter Mygind), who claims to be acting on instructions from England. There is to be no questioning of orders and they are not to allow themselves time to feel sympathy for their victims.

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Inevitably each man reaches a point where he is forced to question the morality of what he is doing, and complications ensue. Flame becomes involved with Ketty (Stine Stengade), a young woman who is working as a courier, and possibly also for the Germans. Winther is found to have his own agenda, and both Flame and Citron realise that they have been duped into killing innocents. The unintentional death of a child brings them both to breaking point. But there is no going back, and they decide to kill Hoffman (Christian Berkel), head of the Gestapo.

It is refreshing to see a film which refuses to romanticise this subject matter. There are many good elements here, and plenty of gripping moments. Unfortunately there is no variation of tone. It starts out grim and just remains grim. One longs for a few lighter moments in what comes to feel like an ordeal. Judging from the troubled sighs around me, I guessed my fellow viewers felt the same.

It also leaves a lot of questions to be answered. When Flame is seen nervously preparing for his first assignment, he is told to make himself inconspicuous, “Don’t worry. No one will notice you. Everyone will be looking at the victims.” So why does he do nothing about his very obvious red hair, despite being warned about it, until nearly the end of the film when he decides to start wearing a hat? Why do the two fighters, with a price on their heads, drive around in a bright blue car when everyone else has black cars? Why does the whole resistance group seem to meet regularly in the same bar, especially as it is patronised by the Gestapo?

Despite these problems, there is a lot to admire, particularly the scenes with Citron and the wife who is slipping away from him, and the shot of the two men in the aftermath of the child killing, both sitting exhausted and silent against a wall, locked in their guilt.

Though there is an end note telling how the two were posthumously recognised as heroes by the Danes, this film doesn’t give any real insight into their characters, and there is never really any explanation of how they came to be what they were.

Reviewed on: 16 Mar 2009
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Two resistance fighters face treachery and are torn over their feelings for a beautiful woman.
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Director: Ole Christian Madsen

Writer: Lars Andersen, Ole Christian Madsen

Starring: Thure Lindhardt, Mads Mikkelsen, Stine Stengade, Peter Mygind, Mille Lehfeldt, Christian Berkel

Year: 2008

Runtime: 130 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: Denmark, Czech Republic, Germany


Glasgow 2009

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