Drama tracks a fragile young artist's descent into madness from the inside.

Taut psychological drama “Love and Rage” tracks a fragile young artist’s descent into madness from the inside, with the aud privy to the paranoia and warning signals that those surrounding the protag fail to grasp until it’s too late. Potent feature writing-directing debut for Danish editor and TV helmer Morton Giese stands a fair chance of fanning festival buzz into offshore arthouse and ancillary interest.

Daniel (Cyron Melville, who won the actor nod at Montreal) is very much his late, suicidal father’s son: a gifted pianist with few friends or social skills, and potentially career-hobbling performance anxiety. Nonetheless, his talent wins him the tutelage of Pierre (Dejan Cukic), the Copenhagen music academy mentor he’d wanted; potential scouting from Julliard; and the honor of being chosen as soloist at the school’s forthcoming annual concert.

He’s attracted to classmate Sofie (Sara Hjort), a cellist with a much breezier demeanor. Soon they’re living together, Daniel partly driven from home by the fact that his self-absorbed TV reporter mother Birgitte (Charlotte Fich) has begun seeing Pierre — indeed, they may well have been involved when she was still married to Daniel’s tragic father.

New to love, possessive and increasingly delusional, Daniel has little control over his feelings. Yet even when a wildly overreactive explosion of public rage results in arrest, those around him don’t take his distress signals seriously enough. Once he’s decided Pierre might be bedding Sofie, too, Daniel’s behavior grows truly irrational and threatening. A few squeamish Montreal viewers walked out as the story took its inevitable yet still upsettingly violent final turns.

Despite potential for major histrionics, Giese keeps a tight rein, with Melville’s intense central performance more implosive than explosive. The visual approach conveys a jittery p.o.v. without getting too showy about it, while the original score and sound design also intelligently heighten the sense of Daniel’s instability.

Love and Rage

Denmark

Production

A Zentropa Entertainments production in association with Danish Film Institute. (International sales: TrustNordisk, Copenhagen.) Produced by Mikael Olsen. Executive producer, Peter Aalbaek Jensen. Directed by Morten Giese. Screenplay, Giese, Kim Leona.

Crew

Camera (color, HD-to-35mm), Erik Molberg Hansen; editor, Morten Hojbjerg; music, Johan Soderqvist; production designer, Gitte Malling; costume designer, Johan Soderqvist; sound (Dolby), Kristian Eidnes Andersen, Morten Green; Reviewed at Montreal World Film Festival (competing), Sept. 5, 2009. Running time: 99 MIN.

With

Cyron Melville, Sara Hjort, Dejan Cukic, Charlotte Fich.
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