A dark, turn-of-the-century family drama set amid the beautiful Danish countryside, Anders Refn’s “Black Harvest” has a haunting fascination, plus some of the same epic qualities that made the Danish pic “Pelle the Conqueror” a winner. Despite the grim goings-on, Refn’s movie could reap business at foreign arthouses.
Well-known Danish actor Ole Ernst plays Niels, a wealthy landowner who’s the evil center from whom corruption and meanness fan out like ripples in the water. With his beautiful wife and four lovely daughters, he’s talked about as a putative government minister, despite his constant womanizing and several illegitimate offspring among his servants.
A brutal and violent man, he at one point demands that his mistress share the family dinner table at Christmas. When others oppose this, he spends the holiday with his servants instead.
The only family member who consistently defies him is his feisty 17-year-old daughter, Clara (Sofie Graaboel), who’s also secretly in love with her married cousin, Isidor (Philip Zanden). Latter, clearly tempted by her affections, turns to drugs in his confusion.
Pic is both violent and tragic, with suicides, beatings, murders and rape (among other things). But while not easy to digest, it rises above its general grimness thanks to beautiful widescreen lensingby Jan Weincke and superb acting, especially by Graaboel as the rebellious daughter.