A dark, violent and emotionally engaging tragedy, “Bleeder” is another powerhouse movie from young “Pusher” director Nicolas Winding Refn, 29, and further proof of the high quality of young Danish cinema right now. This grim but ultimately hopeful film should do well on home turf, and fall festival exposure should spark sales to foreign buyers.
In his first pic, Refn paid tribute to his heroes Martin Scorsese and John Cassavetes in a fast-moving, tragic story of a small-time pusher and his futile attempts to escape death in Copenhagen’s criminal underworld. In this sophomore outing — second of a trilogy — Refn visits the outskirts of this vicious and violent world, his drama showing how the violence and turmoil of today’s society destroy a young couple, slowly substituting bloodshed and death for love and affection.
Life is sometimes tough for Leo (Kim Bodnia) and Louise (Rikke Louise Andersson), who live together in a slightly run-down apartment, seemingly deeply attached to each other. Louise is the more homebound of the two, while Leo likes to carouse with friends, watching violent movies at the local vid store and drinking beer.
One of their circle is Louise’s brother, Louis (Levino Jensen), a racist, petty thug who reckons himself a big-shot gangster. Another is Lenny (Mads Mikkelsen), a shy young movie geek who’s looking for someone to love. He finds her in Lea (Liv Corfixen), who works at an all-night cafe. When Lenny finally summons enough courage to ask her out, they mistakenly end up at different cinemas.
Meanwhile, Louise has told Leo she’s pregnant. Instead of reacting with joy, he starts hanging out late at night and becoming more and more abusive to her. As played by the excellent Bodnia (the lead in “Pusher”), Leo gradually lets the viewer into what it is that plagues him — a combination of self-hate and hatred of the world. Why should he bring a child into a world like this? When Leo finally explodes, Louise becomes his victim, resulting in a spiral of violence.
D.p. Morten Soborg’s gritty, hand-held, in-your-face lensing sometimes resembles Dogma 95 in style, but Refn employs a battery of other effects — such as music and additional lighting — that are “banned” in Dogma pics. Though clearly inspired by Scorsese and Cassavetes, he’s no simple imitator, creating something that is clearly his own.
He also has terrific actors to work with. Bodnia again confirms his rep as one of today’s best young Danish actors, making Leo an intriguing character with whom auds can identify up until he loses control. As played by newcomer Andersson, Louise is also very affecting. Special kudos, too, goes to Mikkelsen, as the low-key Lenny, who delivers an understated and believable perf. Title of the pic is explained in one of the final scenes.