Monday, October 28, 2019

QUEEN OF HEARTS: Trine Dyrholm stars in Denmark's entry into the BFLF sweeps

If you'll recall, the QUEEN OF HEARTS -- at least in the famous Lewis Carroll tale which the three leading characters in this eponymously-named film take turns reading to a set of pretty young twins -- is perhaps most remembered for constantly shouting "Off with his head!" This is worth noting, since that romantic-sounding title might put you in mind of various rom-coms you've seen over the years. That this film, directed and co-written by May el-Toukhy (shown below), is Scandinavian, however, might re-direct you into darker territory.

And though we are not talking an Ingmar Bergman-level of serious filmmaking here, the movie is perhaps the darkest example of the lives of the Scandinavian haute bourgeoisie to be seen in quite some time. Queen of Hearts is Denmark's entry into the newly titled Best International Feature Film category (formerly called the Best Foreign Language Film), and as such would be expected to deliver some prestige goods. It does -- and then some.

TrustMovies would be pleased to see the film arrive on the Academy's shortlist of nine movies considered for this award, perhaps even rising to become one of the five nominees. Yet it is such an incredibly dark film that I rather think an embrace by the entire Academy may prove difficult.

Queen of Hearts deals with an older woman's affair with her husband's son from a former marriage, and if your mind, as did mine when I heard this plot hook, moved into Phaedra territory or that of any number of melodramatic movies made around this theme, think again. That the older woman is played by one of the Denmark's finest actresses, Trine Dyrholm (shown above and below, and recently seen here in Becoming Astrid and Nico, 1988), only makes the movie even more of a must-see, and Ms Dyrholm plays each moment to its max without ever overdoing.

There is a single unnecessary scene of tears -- that perhaps indicates some sort of repentance but comes across as too easy -- meant to humanize our non-heroine; otherwise the movie is spot-on emotionally and psychologically. It is at its finest at the very moment when other films would take that melodramatic/soap-operatic turn. Instead this one offers up a gut punch unlike any we've experienced.

The other two leading roles -- Magnus Krepper (above, left, as the husband/father and Gustav Lindh (below) as the son -- are equally fine, the former caring but distant, the latter caring and all too present. Likewise the supporting roles all add to the specificity and believability of the scenario.

I can't go into more of the plot maneuvering without giving away genuine spoilers. Suffice it to say that this unusual character study takes you places you have not been and may not care to go. Once you've made the trip, however, it'll burn itself onto your memory.

Distributed via Breaking Glass Pictures, in Danish and Swedish with English subtitles and running 123 minutes, Queen of Hearts opens theatrically this Friday, November 1 -- in New York City at the Cinema Village and in the Los Angeles area at Laemmle's Glendale

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