Written and directed by Anders Refn, co-written by Flemming Quist Møller, Denmark, April 9th, 1940, a Danish industrialist cooperates and profits from the German occupation of Denmark. While his family finds themselves on opposite sides of the conflict. Starring: Jesper Christensen, Bodil Jørgensen, Mads Reuther, Gustav Dyekjær Giese, Sara Viktoria Bjerregaard, Kathrine Thorborg Johansen, Cyron Melville and Roman Schomburg.
Refn is the frequent collaborator and father of Nicolas Winding Refn, as well as having worked with Lars Von Trier as an editor, so it may come as a surprise to see him making a film that plays things a little more inside the box. The style he uses with Into the Darkness is classic and rich, it makes the most of its period setting and envelops you into the 1940s. The visual from start to finish is striking, it’s so sharp and textured that you can’t help but to be drawn in by it. Its use of colour is fantastic, especially when supported by such wonderful costume, hair and make-up work. All those things working together creates a very strong, enticing energy.
Its choice of story presents an interesting dilemma, the negative side being that it’s exploring an aspect of the war that’s overflowing with privilege and people who could feign an ignorance to the atrocities of the war. On the other hand, it’s exploring a side of the war that’s been fairly untold, the naivety and seduction at work on the Danish people by the Nazis and how it led to a much larger involvement in the war. The two sides find a fairly decent balance, it’s impossible to ignore the perspective its taken but there is a captivating drama at work; one that asks a lot of questions about how easily pride and money can take priority over doing the right thing in a difficult time. Each family member has their own viewpoint, no two are the same and it’s very easy to get caught up in their conflict. There’s undeniably strong storytelling work at play, the only downside being that they end its 152-minute runtime on a rather weak note, with such charged emotions throughout, the final salute feels somewhat lacklustre.
The performances however are consistent across the board, there’s a brilliant cast at work here. Christensen’s stoic father figure is frustratingly blinkered, constantly refusing to acknowledge the horrors at play, while Jørgensen playing his wife Eva has to somehow come to terms with her husband working with the enemy. Reuther’s Aksel brings the typical passion of youth for standing up against a broken system and injustice. Giese’s Michael is very buttoned up for the most part but he gets one scene to bring everything he’s got to an emotional crescendo and it’s incredibly effective. Bjerregaard brings the younger side of things, the hope and relentless spirit, it’s a relatively predictable role but one she does well with.
Into the Darkness is a captivating and enticing family drama wrestling with changing tides as the reality of war closes in on them. It undoubtedly plays it safer than your average war film, sticking mostly to the more glamorous side of things but that doesn’t stop it from being strikingly shot and engrossing to watch.