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White Night

An accidental death digs into the soul and reveals a mother lode of hidden guilt in compelling Danish meller "White Night."

An accidental death digs into the soul and reveals a mother lode of hidden guilt in the compelling Danish meller “White Night.” Penetrating case study reps helmer Jannik Johansen’s increasingly dark progression from his edgy 2003 comedy bow “Stealing Rembrandt” and explores themes similar to those of his previous pic, “Murk.” Intense script will challenge emotionally faint-hearted auds, and is anchored by a strong, astoundingly sympathetic central perf by Lars Brygmann. Local release is set for late October, where healthy arthouse potential will aid in carrying over to other Euro markets. Fests also will be charging in.

Unscrupulous real estate agent Ulrick Nymann (Brygmann) is celebrating a successful condo deal when he suggests he and his colleagues leave a chic disco with wall-to-wall babes for a dive bar. Already brimming with contempt for lower-class types, Ulrick is disturbed by an aggressive drunk. When push comes to shove, the drunk dies in an awkward fall and Ulrick is remanded overnight.

Thanks to the influence of his lawyer brother, Bartel (Johansen regular Nicolas Bro), and his esteemed but otherwise estranged father (Morten Grunwald), Ulrick is freed the next day. Life is expected to rapidly return to normal, but Ulrick’s well-to-do wife Camilla (Anne Sophie Byder) and unprincipled employer are unprepared for the impact that being responsible for a man’s death has on Ulrick.

Radical change is eschewed in favor of incremental shifts as Ulrick helps out the victim’s widow, Karina (Rikke Louise Andersson): He offers first aid when her daughter receives a playground injury, casually gives her eldest son an iPod, then later buys them a house. Initially it appears that Ulrick is just trying to buy off his guilt, but in the reverie of self-pity, genuine remorse also takes hold.

Pushing away his wife and their materialistic friends, Ulrick soon finds himself out of a job as script reveals that his guilt about killing Karina’s drunken husband is just the tip of a long-submerged iceberg relating to earlier events in Ulrick’s life.

Supporting perfs are good across the board, with Andersson standing out as the conflicted widow. However, pic belongs to Brygmann’s controlled turn. Perf borders on the miraculous as it makes a selfish man-turned-accidental killer increasingly sympathetic, even as he wallows in self-pity and self-destruction.

Intense yarn’s plot is sure-footed, and despite some irregularities, feels entirely credible. Helming is subdued, but relentlessly enforces the story’s iron grip. Jens Maasabol’s stylish lensing underscores the script’s mood and subtly changes in texture according to location. All other tech credits are polished.

White Night

Denmark

  • Production: A Nimbus Film presentation and production, in association with Fine and Mellow Prods., the Danish Film Institute, Nordic Film & TV Fund. (International sales: Nordisk Film Intl. Sales, Mosedalvej, Denmark.) Produced by Morten Kaufmann, Birgitte Skov. Directed by Jannik Johansen. Screenplay, Anders Thomas Jensen, Johansen.
  • Crew: Camera (color, widescreen), Jens Maasbol; editor, Per K. Kirkegaard; music, Jens Unmack, Nikolaj Norlund; production designer, Charlotte Bech; sound (Dolby Digital), Morten Degnbol, Kristian Eidnes Andersen. Reviewed at Pusan Intl. Film Festival (World Cinema), Oct. 5, 2007. Running time: 94 MIN.
  • With: Ulrick Nymann - Lars Brygmann Jacob Nymann - Morten Grunwald Bertel Nymann - Nicholas Bro Karina Nielsen - Rikke Louise Andersson Camilla - Anne Sophie Byder
  • Music By: