Addressing the fictional assassination of Danish PM Anders Fogh Rasmussen, hard-core mockumentary “AFR” inventively plays fast and loose with the truth to create an outlandish but stylish provocation to its living subject. For the uninitiated, pic may initially seem a hagiographic snore about an unknown foreign politician. However, as strands are woven tightly together, narrative becomes a “JFK”-like conspiracy which entertains and enthralls whether auds know the facts or not. Pic is set for Danish release and an inevitable furor in March. International fests should lap this up, but controversy may be confined to Euro territories.
The second recent film of its type, after the mutely received Bush assassination fantasy “Death of a President,” pic preemed at Rotterdam fest under a veil of secrecy that was part paranoid and part savvy marketing campaign. Opening credits refer to coin from fictional funding bodies and neither film nor press materials identify thesps, ostensibly to protect the actors and “maintain the integrity of the mockumentary.”
After a title card offering an actual Rasmussen quote about the importance of freedom of speech (generated during Denmark’s 2005 Muhammad cartoon hoo-ha), pic begins with a bang as the PM’s wife (played by an actress) tells of farewelling her husband on the morning his car blew up. A series of unidentified talking heads speak lovingly about the murdered politician.
After establishing Rasmussen’s right-wing credentials (via out-of-context footage of George Bush, among others), pic introduces its Danish “terrorist,” a drug-addled, radicalized pop musician named Emil (helmer-scripter Morten Hartz Kaplers). In the wake of Rasmussen’s death, Emil was quickly named the culprit and “accidentally” killed during his arrest. Unidentified talking heads repping Emil’s friends and family speak of a talented young man driven to self-destructive and antisocial acts by an uncaring social system.
Narrative continues to criss-cross between the two personalities, identifying Emil’s alcohol-fueled anarchism and Rasmussen’s commitment to include Denmark as part of the U.S.-led coalition forces in Iraq.
Around the 40-minute mark, pic drops the bombshell that Rasmussen, “as everyone knew,” was gay. (Married with three children, the real Rasmussen has endorsed gay marriage for “personal reasons.”) On the heels of this, Emil’s friends reveal the anarchist was always flushed with funds due to a sideline as a rent boy.
As pic moves into high gear, talking heads from both sides corroborate the existence of a love affair between the punk and the politician. A byproduct of the affair is that the humanitarian politics of the alienated radical begin to favorably impact the right-wing politician.
However, when Rasmussen is tapped to become Danish prime minister, he drops out of his affair with Emil.
Devastated, Emil goes off the rails and various indiscretions land him in jail for two years. Rasmussen’s path is steadier but, according to the mockumentary, he increasingly isolates himself from fellow conservatives by embracing left-wing causes. Lonely and desperate, the politico makes a conciliatory phone call to his ex-lover. Emil’s infuriated response is a hysterical death threat. Pic finishes contemplating whether Emil was a Lee Harvey Oswald-like patsy for European conservatives.
Final title card lays bare the facade by revealing that all interviews in the film have been “manipulated out of the context for which they were originally created.”
Seamlessly put together and with considerable aplomb, the mockumentary mercilessly subverts Rasmussen’s real-life actions and statements. Legal consequences in Denmark may be dire, but this agitprop work by writer-director-thesp Kaplers is a tour de force.
Performances are near-perfect across the board, though uninformed auds will have difficulty distinguishing who is real. Using archival footage, lensers Lars Bonde and Magnus Nordenhof Jonck create an authentic look from all of the mockumentary’s diverse sources. Tech credits are pro, including deliberately poor sound recording during Africa-set scenes.