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By Stina Chyn | April 20, 2004

“So this is what English sounds like when spoken by Danes” is the second thought that crosses your mind when watching “Last Exit” (David Bourke). The first thought you have about this Danish film concerns the choice of the music that plays during the beginning credits. A little bit edgy and with an infectious beat, this techno-trance song leads you to believe that you’re in for ninety-three minutes an unforgettable, terribly cool experience. As the rhythm of the music picks up and a woman’s voice sings, you see images of a man wearing a hooded sweatshirt-jacket walking down the nighttime streets of Copenhagen, stopping inside various porn video stores. In another part of town, a woman buys drugs then shoots up in a makeshift shelter that looks like an open cage.

Under most circumstances, you’d probably want to know who these two people are and if they know each other. In this case, however, there’s something very attractive about not knowing if there’s a connection between them. It turns out that the man and the woman are no strangers—they’re married. “Last Exit” looks at the disintegration of their relationship. In terms of plot, it’s about Nigel (Morten Vogelius), a man who apparently owes a lot of money to some people. In an effort to obtain the amount of Kroners he needs, Nigel agrees to do a couple of jobs for a man known as The President (Peter Ottesen). Introduced to a luscious girl named Tanya (Gry Bay) and instructed to perform tasks which fundamentally contradict his principles, Nigel turns into a man capable of infidelity and murder.

You want to like this film just because Danish actors speak English that you can understand. You’ll even want to consider the director’s tendency to shoot people’s eyes in extreme close-ups as ideologically significant. Initially, only characters with a fierce gaze like Nigel’s would be framed in an extreme close-up (it makes you uncomfortable to the point where you’ll want to move back a few feet). Then, the director videotapes extreme close-ups of people whose eyes are not intense in the slightest. Such an inconsistency may just be a minor detail in the long run, but it implies that the director’s intentions are hazy. This absence of purpose negatively affects the way you view Nigel. You can’t identify with him; therefore you don’t care why he has debts or that he cheats on his wife.

The best part of “Last Exit” occurs when Nigel is watching “Don’t Look Now” (Nicholas Roeg, 1973) on his TV. His wife Maria (Jette Philipsen) is trying to seduce him but his attention is focused elsewhere. The camera cuts between Maria and images of “Don’t Look Now.” Rather than ponder the meaning behind this editing method, you’re more likely to wonder how the director secured permission to include clips from Roeg’s film. When “Last Exit” ends, you may still want to react favorably to it simply because you now know how Danes speak English, but it’s not a good enough reason.

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