By Rich Cline | January 17, 2003

Here’s yet another brilliant film from the home of the Dogme 95 Manifesto, a strong story about love strained to the breaking point.
Cecile and Joachim (Sonja Richter and Nikolaj Lie Kaas) are madly in love, planning to get married when a shocking event changes all their plans and leaves them reeling and struggling to even communicate. This also interlocks their lives with Niels and Marie (Mads Mikkelsen and Paprika Steen), who are married with three kids. Marie encourages Niels to help Cecile cope with what has happened, and soon the two are involved in an affair. But how these four characters react to the situation is completely unpredictable–to them and to us.
Dogme guidelines eliminate any cinematic trickery, but Danish director Susanne Bier doesn’t need to worry. Her story is simple and very human, and in using this intimate filmmaking style and a natural, expressive cast, she creates an honest, open film that completely blurs the lines between reality and cinema. This feels so real that it takes our breath away–it’s moving, profoundly involving and deeply meaningful.
As the characters twist and turn through the story, we are right there with them, drawn in by both the open performances and the intimate filmmaking. Eventually it gets almost unbearably tense, while never losing the warmth and humor that make these people accessible. It’s skillfully directed and edited, and Anders Thomas Jensen’s script is terrific, although it’s strangely anti-male. The women are tough and resilient while the men are, essentially, opportunistic slime balls. This, as well as a slight tendency to overstate and romanticize things, grates slightly. But it’s still a powerfully moving drama that’s well worth seeing.

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