Cinema Signal:

The Off-Hollywood Film Guide:
The Definitive Guide to Independent and Foreign Films on Video and DVD
by Tom Weiner

. "Reconstruction"

If you think the title of this film is just a bit presumptuous, wait'll you see what it refers to. This Danish selection for Best Foreign Language Film of 2003 begins with the narrator/writer speaking to the audience about the main character of the piece and goes on to control his motivations and actions as though who and what he is and whom he's relating to is being worked out by the writer. In other words, he's a fictional character caught up in a skein of gimmicky multi-realities.

Alex (Nikolaj Lie Kaas), a character in the puppeteering eye of the narrator, appears out of a mist of low resolution film. He is a Danish photographer who thinks he has his life in balance. His steady girlfriend Simone (Maria Bonnevie) is, after all, a beauty who is quite in love with him. But when his path takes him to a bar he regularly frequents, and when he meets Aimee (also Maria Bonnevie), blond hair flowing, lush lips, classic bone structure, he expresses his attraction by offering her a trip to Paris.


She's attracted enough to weigh it. "If you're the girl of my dreams. then...", he says. "Then you could be the man of mine," she supposes, though her being married imposes a restraint. She may be a neglected wife, but she's a wife nevertheless. She contemplates giving it all up for the newcomer in her life with the adventurous pickup line.

Her husband August (Krister Henriksson), however, is the writer who is controlling this scenario. While struggling with the outcome of the surreal romance he's started, August states, in a radio interview that, as a writer, he doesn't apologize for being romantic. But neither is he charismatic enough to compete for his wife's affections against the allure of the young suitor he's dreamed up out of his marital anxieties. Rest assured that a little confusion here about the surreal context is within the framework of normality.

After a night in bed with Aimee, Alex returns to the apartment he shares with Simone to call off their relationship. But after climbing the stairs in their building, he finds that.... the apartment doesn't exist. That's right. Where he thought his apartment was has become a blank area on a landing without rooms. Shades of Kafka!

When he finally finds Simone, it's by a chance encounter on a street. As much as he claims to know her, she has no idea who he is. He's perplexed, as are we, until we realize that we're in the peculiar dimensions of an off beat sci-fi thriller that's titillating us with an experimental hypothesis in lieu of a comprehensible plot.

As Alex faces the deconstruction of his realities, challenging his sanity and understanding, we, the audience struggle to make sense of it as observers. The writer is having his way with us. We've been shoved into his manipulations. But, that's all right, in the end. We've been kept on a string of incoherency but it's not without a certain fascination at least in terms of where the romantic mystery is going and just how the "Reconstruction" is going to be tooled and contrived.

Bonnevie, as writer-director Christopher Boe's and co-writer Mogens Rukov's symbol of woman as a two-sided mystery, bounces between promiscuous dependency and loyal constancy. While this is the kind of dual role actors dream about, its artificial symbolism keeps it one-planed and not to be entrusted with much in the way of emotional engagement. What does emerge, however, is the work of an actress who can portray self confident allure with the best of the vamps. Little known outside Scandinavia where she's much in demand, Bonnevie is clearly worth watching for in wider fields of production.

Kaas, for his part, carries us through Boe's labyrinth of disconnection with good energy, but with something less than magnetic appeal. The mystery of what quality he possesses that makes him such an object of sexual attraction persists -- in a way that Boe's casting might not have reckoned with.

In the final analysis, the presumptions behind this mental exercise in gyrating realities of romance and relationships never generates the weight of revelation that seems to be its mystical aim.

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                                      ~~  Jules Brenner  


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Nikolaj Lie Kass and Maria Bonnevie
Lovers Alex and Aimee in a baffling world of displacement

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