Wildland

***

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Wildland
"Well realised and engaging, with impressive production design." | Photo: Courtesy of Fantasia

After death, there is always chaos; the pillars that held up the world as it was fracture, and there can be no safety there. For Ida (Sandra Guldberg Kampp) it all happens very suddenly. As the film opens, we see the car lying on its roof on the road, paramedics engaged in frantic actions. Ida survives; her mother does not. With nowhere else to go, she is placed in the care of her aunt Bodil (Sidse Babett Knudsen), which never really seems like a good idea - they haven't seen each other since Ida was a small child, and Bodil has three sons a few years older than the girl whose behaviour around her immediately rings alarm bells. In fact, it's worse than that. Helped by her sons, Bodil runs a debt collection racket and a number of other criminal enterprises in which the disorientated teenager quickly becomes entwined.

At the heart of this story is a clash between differing systems of morality. Ida has been raised to be compassionate to everyone and to believe that certain acts are simply wrong. For Bodil and her sons, however, what is good is determined by what benefits the family, with loyalty valued above everything else. Bodil's commitment to Ida is real and unhesitating, because Ida is, as the original Danish title has it, her flesh and blood (Kød & Blod); but when she suspects that Ida might betray her, she is every bit as horrified as Ida is at the sight of her cousins committing acts of violence.

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Is horror the whole of it? Aided by a strong performance from Kampp (mostly silent though she is), director Jeanette Nordahl hints at something more complex. Ida's mother was an addict and she has some idea how to take care of herself. We see her assert just the right amount of calm confidence when refusing a cousin's request to see her breasts, immediately recognising the danger that compromise could put her in. Although there are times when she's clearly really disturbed by what's going on, such as when another, younger girl is at risk, there are also moments when she seems drawn to the freedom that this wild, irresponsible life has to offer. A night out in a club with her cousins, with no-one daring to ask her age, is one of the few times we see her smile.

Although the scenario is not new (viewers might be reminded of David Michôd's Animal Kingdom), the film is well realised and engaging, with impressive production design by Helle Lygum Justesen which will draw you into the story. Knudsen, always watchable, makes the most of her fascinating character and when the fragile situation in which the family is living finally explodes we get to see just how far Bodil is prepared to go for her sons.

Part thriller, part character study, Wildland often makes for uncomfortable viewing but has plenty happening to keep you engaged. It's a study in what happens when people go looking for chaos or chaos goes looking for them.

Reviewed on: 04 Mar 2021
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After her mother’s death, Ida moves in with her aunt and cousins... whose ethics are dubious.


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