Reviewed by Nathan Coleman. Viewed at the Mann Chinese Theater, AFI Fest Hollywood.

Directed by Thomas Vinterberg. A Nimbus Film Production. Produced by Morten Kaufmann.  Screenplay by Tobias Lindholm and Thomas Vinterberg. Based on the novel Submarino by Jonas T. Bengtsson. Starring Jakob Cedergren, Peter Plaugborg, and Gustav Fischer Kjaerulff.

In Submarino, his most anticipated film since “The Celebration”, Thomas Vinterberg takes us into the harsh lives of two brothers as they try to survive in the unrelenting projects of Denmark. The prologue opens with the two brothers in their adolescent years, struggling to take care of their infant brother in the absence of their alcoholic mother. They decide on a name (although the name is never given) and baptize him. One morning the eldest brother, Nik, walks in to feed the infant only to find a morbid scene of the child dead in his crib. The story flashes forward to an older and angrier Nik (Jakob Cedergren), a violent alcoholic,  just  released from prison. The story follows Nik as he suffers from the hardships of his daily life, while attempting to reconnect with his younger brother.

Halfway into the film the narrative changes to Nik’s younger brother (Peter Plaugborg), whose name is never revealed. As a heroine junkie, he strains to take care of his son, Martin (Gustav Kjaerulff), while sustaining his drug addiction. As the story descends deeper into the dark lives’ of the father and son, it becomes clear that the time line in this narrative does not match up with that of Nik’s. This raises a number of questions that are periodically answered as the story moves toward its inevitable grim ending.

“Submarino” is, without  a doubt, Vinterberg’s most grim and desolate work yet. It really captures the hopelessly bleak and dreary lives of the two protagonist. The non linear narrative form seems to try and resemble that of Quentin Tarantino’s “Pulp Fiction”. The cinematography develops an overpowering sense of claustrophobia with constant use of tight framing, close up shots, and low-key lighting that parallels with the feeling of entrapment experienced by the characters. The entire misce-en-scene is shrouded in pale blue and cool colors, with scenes that seem to be held just a little too long for comfort.

Although the theme is unclear, the film offers an extremely personal and disconcerting look into the lives of two brothers who are tormented by a devastating event from their past. Lastly, the film follows both brothers and compares how each chose to deal with the problems they face. Vinterberg, through his filmmaking, is able to afflict his audience with a lingering sense of disquiet that is not easily forgotten.

The film overall was well done and directed. The performance given by Jakob Cedergren as Nik was flawless, and the young actor Gustav Kjaerulff you should make sure to keep an eye on. I would not go as far to say that this is Vintergren’s next best work since “The Celebration”, but it was an exceptional piece. If you happen to see it on DVD it would be an interesting film to check out but I would not recommend spending the time or money to catch it in theaters.

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