Little Soldier

Little Soldier


Reviewed by: Chris

How do you do some good in the world? And is it for the person you want to benefit or is it really about being honest with yourself?

Little Soldier makes us face some of the hardest questions we may never want to answer. One is war. Another is human trafficking. As Harriet Harman pulls scare figures on trafficked sex workers out of a hat to boost her government's failing public support (and push through another ‘tough’ bill), this quiet Danish film digs to a level of reality that we maybe didn’t want to visit.

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A young, disillusioned female soldier returns from Afghanistan. Lotte’s (Trine Dyrholm) psychological numbness is with herself as much as with the world around her. With her own ability – or lack of it – to make a difference. Beneath an incredibly powerful fighting frame, she yearns to rediscover her feminine kindness. But war has brutalised her and when she returns home, her attempts to bond with her father, throws the isolated, war-weary and unemployed remnant of the woman she has become, against an ineffectual old man on civvy street. He runs a kindly escort business with trafficked women, exchanging a vanload every so often and keeping their passports in his safe.

It is all so horribly everyday. So horribly convincing. Chilling. Yet reality keeps unfolding like a series of Chinese boxes. Each revelation is more realistic than what has gone before. We reach a credible, emotionally-charged plateau, only to have it swept from under our feet by an even more believable explanation of what is happening all around us.

Lotte befriends one of the prostitutes, Lily (Lorna Brown). Her father’s favourite. He trusts Lotte to act as driver and bodyguard (a role which Lotte’s military training lets her perform a little too well at times). The two women become close, realising they share similar psychological scars. They have become welded to a life they cannot leave. Saving another’s soul becomes a heart-rending admission of one’s own needs - needs which can blind.

The brutal honesty of this film reminds me of another movie about war and violence, also directed by a woman (Kate Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker). Both films, without moralising, look at the psychological reality while depicting ‘male’ violence at its most hard-hitting. In Little Soldier, Lotte has been masculinised, first in a desperate attempt to get attention from her father, and then by being a soldier. Lotte and Lily have nothing but contempt for each other, yet their needs draw them ever closer together.

Director Annette K Olesen peels back the fabric of salvation – a drive that makes us want to save individuals or save the world. Worlds and individuals that are far less sure of their need to be saved than our need to save them. Says Oleson: “Saviours are good. And in fairytales they are altruistic. But can they expect to be saved too? Can you save somebody who doesn’t want salvation?”

Little Soldier is another fine feather in the cap of Zentropa, the Danish film company founded in 1992 by director Lars von Trier. And while it has great depth, it is not aimed solely at the arthouse crowd. Heart-warming, profoundly moving, shocking and violent, Little Soldier is a film that will fight to stay in your memory.

Reviewed on: 08 Sep 2009
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A psychologically damaged soldier returns from war and becomes a chauffeur for her father's prostitutes, finding frienship in an unlikely place.
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Director: Annette K. Olesen

Writer: Kim Fupz Aakeson

Starring: Trine Dyrholm, Finn Nielsen, Lorna Brown, Rasmus Botoft, Jens Jørgen Spottag

Year: 2008

Runtime: 100 minutes

Country: Denmark


BIFF 2009
EIFF 2009

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If you like this, try:

Frozen River
The Hurt Locker