Directed by Soren Kragh-Jacobsen
Written by Anders Thomas Jensen, Soren Kragh-Jacobsen

Starring Anders Berthelsen, Iben Hjejle, Jesper Asholt



I know I'm breaching a confidence when I tell you this, but the Danish film "Mifune" was directed by Soren Kragh-Jacobsen. There, it's out. You see, Dogma 95 films aren't supposed to carry their directors' names, as apparently that would be a sign of too much hubris, or any at all. And along with a batch of other 'vows of chastity' like no lights, no tripods (hand-held camera only), no post-production sound or visual effects, and others that resemble the list Martin Luther posted on the church door, Dogma 95 and its rules have made an impact of sorts on the way some contemporary films are made.

"Mifune," both because of and in spite of being a Dogma film, is charming, touching, fascinating, and well worth visiting. Kresten (Anders Berthelsen), a successful Copenhagen businessman, tied to his cell phone, marries an upscale woman from whom he's keeping a dark secret. He's not the product of your ordinary middle-class family, as he pretends, but of a downscale farm life on an obscure rural island. We learn this when he's called home to the farm to find his father dead on the dining table and his mentally handicapped brother Rud (Jesper Asholt) hiding underneath.

Rud and Kresten have always played a game in which Toshiro Mifune as a samurai is an important figure, hence the film's title, and it becomes a touching connection point as Kresten now tries to rearrange his life. Rud cannot care for himself, and Kresten advertises for a caretaker. A pretty young woman, Liva (Iben Hjejle, yes, she of "High Fidelity"), answers the ad. She is a prostitute on the run from her vicious pimp, and needs a safe place to hide.

She turns out to be exactly the right person, for Rud, for Kresten, and for the film, and as it happens she comes with a young brother, Bjarke (Emil Tarding), who's on the run from his boarding school. This odd menage finds its way into a fascinating life together, though we are kept aware of the constant menace of the pimp and the question of whether Kresten's wife will find out what's going on at the farm.

Kragh-Jacobsen has managed the nice feat of juggling every one of these balls without dropping anything, and emerged with, if not a perfect Dogma film (there's some cheating in the way of post-syncing of sound and the use of extra unseen lights for evening scenes), then a perfectly fine and imaginative story. He has peopled it with well-thought-out characters who fit each other and yet contain within themselves the kinds of unexpected, surprising traits that reveal themselves like little sparklers lit at twilight for a holiday party. Nothing is leaned into, yet nothing is missed. We are party to all of it, the people and the plot.

The acting is unpretentious yet appropriate, the direction rock-solid. And the writing (Dogma allows actors to improvise, so we don't know exactly how much of the dialogue was scripted) is thoughtfully understated. Yet there is drama and violence in the film, and a cathartic ending, but it all seems inevitable and appropriate. Along with "Celebration," this is Dogma 95 at its best.    

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