Monday, May 24, 2010

Stress points

Seeing the fine Danish film Brødre (2004) made me feel depressed about Jim Sheridan's career status that he felt compelled to take on such a pointless exercise as directing the American scene-for-scene remake Brothers. One measure of the level of misfire is list some of the differences between the two films:

1. In Brødre, the officer brother briefs his men on their mission and assures them it is acceptable to be afraid.

2. Brødre has scenes and dialogue which explain why and how the younger brother was in prison and his feelings about what he did and who he hurt.

3. In Brødre, the protagonist truly gets to know the man he feels to compelled to kill later.

4. Connie Nielsen and Ulrich Thomsen are simply more believable as the parents of two young girls than Natalie Portman and Tobey Maguire, who still look they just came back from the prom. Not their fault, but...

5. Brødre makes it clear that the father's breakdown has to do with the stress and guilt over what he did in the war than it has to do with sexual jealousy. That is just a premise. In the remake, Maguire's outburst, driven as it seems to be by jealousy makes even less sense because Gyllenhall and Portman have very little chemistry between them.

6. Since Denmark hasn't much of a film industry, the children don't seem so much like professional actors.

Brødre has a clear visual design, with some hypnotic transitions using a thrumming music score and a montage of different types of blue eyes. (I guess there are some brown-eyed Danes, but you couldn't prove it from this film.)

The entire American version feels as though it were lurching from plot point to plot point without any real conviction, because what we have is a copy. As
Brødre clearly comes from the writer and director's hearts, it is real and honest and truly felt; whereas Brothers feels as though it is going through the motions. Jim Sheridan has made wonderfully honest personal films himself, and he has no more business remaking Brødre than Marc Forster should be remaking In America.

The strange thing is that, given the difficult painful story told in
Brødre and Brothers, the original feels more hopeful, more resolved, with more possibility of recovering a decent future, than the remake which starts "down" and stays down.

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