In Your Hands

In Your Hands


Reviewed by: Heimdal

One of the advantages of a single sex enviroment is that men and women are able to explore the full potential of their emotional keynotes without being hindered by traditional polarisation between the sexes. This is especially true of women in prison, who are forced to toughen up in order to survive the hardships of incarceration.

In Annette Olesen's brave exploration of the human psyche and the mechanisms of belief and doubt, we perceive the ordeal of women, without taking a judgmental stand. The plotline revolves around the infertile priest Anna and the mysterious prisoner Kate.

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When Anna gets a job as a prison chaplain in the women's block, she soon hears rumours about a new prisoner who is able to perform miracles and heal inmates from drug addiction. Anna's polished and rational middle-class values make her seriously doubt the truth behind this gossip, although it does intrigue her. When she meets Kate (Trine Dyrholm) for the first time, the curt and distanced prisoner tells the priest to better care for the baby in her womb than bother her.

Bewildered, Anna soon discovers that she is indeed pregnant and she and her husband rejoice only to discover that the child will be born with genetic disorders. Meanwhile, prison drug dealer Jossi (Sarah Boberg) has figured that Kate is bad for buisness and wants to get her out of the way and Kate's aspiring romance with a prison guard and her shameful past make perfect targets.

This is the 10th Danish Dogme film and it makes a heavy impact. While its predecessors mainly deconstructed the middle-classes, this is a tight, low budget film with universal themes of sin and forgiveness, compassion and guilt, tracing Kieslowski's Dekalog rather then earlier feelgood Scandinavian romps.

When you realise that you are watching a tragedy in progress, you feel genuinly bad for the main characters. The set of the film is so dreary, the smiles so few, that the sweet romance between Kate and prison guard Henrik (Nicolaj Kopernikus), with its shy progress, makes you woe for their love and want to protect its frailty. However, this isn't the kind of movie where the good guy gets the troubled, innocent girl in the end. Instead, it's a film where people, just like in real life, make terrible mistakes.

Upon leaving the cinema, you feel as if you've been hit by a ton of bricks. "Those darn Danish", as we Swedes are prone to say. "Making us depressed like that."

But then something rather extraordinary happens. You think about the characters and the mechanisms behind their actions and realise that you have watched a picture with an uncanningly effective script that has been filmed in the most efficient way, depicting fear, group pressure, hope, compassion (or lack of it), as well as doubt, love, envy, insecurity, domination, prejudice and suspicion.

And - miracle upon miracles! - all of it comes out natural and unforced. Sure, Sonja Richter's pure and kind hearted Marion is an archetypal figure you have seen before. Dostojevski's Sonja and Emily Watson in Breaking The Waves are her sisters in innocence. Played thus, she is utterly convincing in her support role, as is the menacing rundown mother of two, Jossi, struggling to maintain her grip on the other inmates.

In Your Hands features an explosive ensemble of Denmark's finest actresses - both Jorgensen and Richter won European Shooting Star awards. But the most stellar performance is given by the stern and restricted Dyrholm, subtly letting the pain she feels be expressed in her eyes. It is an image that will haunt you for a long time.

The men are less prominent, although Kopernikus, as dog-eyed shy guy Henrik, is a standout. It's hard to imagine such a difficult script being filmed in Hollywood without melodramatic piano overload, or string orchestras swamping the score. Olesen and screenwriter Kim Fups Aakeson might have succeeded in making a genuine feelbad movie, but there is absolutely no need to hang your head after seeing a work of such importance.

Danish Dogme has a lot to offer world cinema and this fully realised emotional film, created by a man/woman collaboration, is a perfect example of what unconventional thinking can do for the industry.

Reviewed on: 14 Mar 2005
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Dogme film about a prison chaplin who meets an inmate believed to perform miracles.
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Director: Annette K Olesen

Writer: Kim Fupz Aakeson, Annette K Olesen

Starring: Ann Eleonora Jorgensen, Trine Dyrholm, Nicolaj Kopernikus, Sarah Boberg, Sonja Richter, Petrine Agger, Jens Albinus, Benedikte Hansen, Helle Hertz

Year: 2004

Runtime: 101 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: Denmark


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