The Movie Waffler New Release Review [Digital] - INTO THE DARKNESS | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review [Digital] - INTO THE DARKNESS

into the darkness review
A wealthy Danish family is torn apart by conflicting allegiances during the Nazi occupation.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Anders Refn

Starring: Jesper Christensen, Bodil Jørgensen, Sara Viktoria Bjerregaard, Roman Schomburg, Gustav Dyekjær Giese, Mads Reuther, Kathrine Thorborg Johansen

into the darkness poster

Perhaps best known to global cinephiles for his collaborations with Lars von Trier, in roles as varied as editor and co-director, Anders Refn (who also happens to be the father of Nicolas Winding) is something of a cult figure in his native Denmark, having arrived as a writer/director in the late '70s before transitioning into editing. His first directorial outing since 1999, WWII family drama Into the Darkness boasts the sort of resources only offered to someone who has racked up considerable clout in their nation's film industry. It's a polished and classy production, but one that's ultimately a little too shallow for its subject matter.

into the darkness review

Like a 1950s Hollywood melodrama or an '80s soap opera, Into the Darkness revolves around the trials and tribulations of a bickering wealthy family. Industrialist Karl (Jesper Christensen) is the patriarch of the respected Skov family, though it seems he owes much of his wealth to his wife, Eva (Bodil Jørgensen), whose father has bankrolled his business. The Skovs are a content couple, with a handsome brood of kids who all seem well educated and talented. Then the Nazis arrive, and the Skov clan is torn apart by split allegiances.

Karl takes a pragmatic approach, one which reflects the general attitude in Denmark at the time of a naïve belief that the Germans wouldn't interfere with their lives too much so long as they behaved. He gives his business over bit by bit to the Nazi war machine, something which Eva intensely disapproves of. Their pretty teenage daughter Helene (Sara Viktoria Bjerregaard) begins courting a slick U-Boat commander (Roman Schomburg). Oldest son Michael (Gustav Dyekjær Giese) is so fuelled by his hatred of communism that he gladly joins the Nazi ranks, which sees him sent off to the Eastern front. Conversely, his brother Aksel (Mads Reuther) has secretly joined the underground resistance and fallen for a sultry communist (Kathrine Thorborg Johansen).

into the darkness review

Into the Darkness has a lot of subplots to dole out, and even at two and a half hours it feels like it's only scratching the surface of its story. I didn't even mention two more sons of Karl and Eva, a pair of jazz musicians whom the film seems to largely forget about. While Michael and Aksel are broadly drawn, leaving us in no doubt as to which side they're taking, their old man is a more interesting figure, one we find uncomfortably relatable. If given the choice between your family and your country, who among us would choose the latter if we're brutally honest with ourselves?

But the movie never really allows us to get inside Karl's head. What does he really believe? Does he genuinely view the Nazis as a rather harmless inconvenience that will blow over? Or does he know exactly the threat they pose but is willing to collaborate to protect his family? Or perhaps he secretly sympathises with Hitler's cause? We're never presented with enough evidence to pass judgment on Karl, and he becomes an increasingly frustrating protagonist.

into the darkness review

It's far easier to empathise with Aksel, the one character here who does the right thing in terms of the greater good. While we may despise Michael for his decision to join the Nazis, he too seems like a character whose misplaced loyalties might have fuelled a movie of its own. In this era where the lines are increasingly blurred between what constitutes a movie and a TV series, it's impossible not to conclude that Into the Darkness would have benefitted greatly from the room to expand its subplots a TV mini-series could have afforded it. Each member of the Skov family is interesting enough to fuel an episode devoted entirely to their own storyline rather than the brief, under-developed snippets we get here. I've seen mention of a planned sequel, which makes sense given how abruptly the film ends, so perhaps we will see an expansion of this saga. As it stands however, Into the Darkness merely teases us with what feels like crumbs torn from a greater narrative loaf.

Into the Darkness
 is on UK/ROI Digital from March 5th.

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