You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Flame & Citron

The myths about resistance to totalitarianism are again held up to revisionist scrutiny in "Flame & Citron," an absorbing, shades-of-gray look at home-front intrigue in Nazi-occupied Denmark during World War II.

Flammen (Bent) - Thure Lindhardt Citronen (Jorgen) - Mads Mikkelsen Ketty - Stine Stengade Aksel Winther - Peter Mygind Bodil - Mille Hoffmeyer Lehfeldt Spex - Flemming Enevold Hoffmann - Christian Berkel Gilbert - Hanns Zischler (Danish, German dialogue)

The myths about resistance to totalitarianism are again held up to revisionist scrutiny in “Flame & Citron,” an absorbing, shades-of-gray look at home-front intrigue in Nazi-occupied Denmark during World War II. Ole Christian Madsen’s accomplished fourth feature plays out on a much larger canvas than he’s used previously and offers nuance and ambiguity in equal measure with violence and tragedy. At $9 million the most expensive Danish production ever made, the pic has registered a boffo 670,000 admissions on home turf since its bow in March and has sold to more than 25 territories, including the U.S., where IFC should be able to generate decent returns for this grim but entirely accessible drama.

Acclaimed recent touchstones in this recent minigenre concerning resistance, collaboration and the debatable line between political assassination and murder include “The Lives of Others” and “Black Book.” But Madsen also acknowledges the strong influence of the late Jean-Pierre Melville’s recently revived 1969 “Army of Shadows,” and there are more than enough dark corners and unsettling moods in this new film to justify the comparison.

Flammen and Citronen were the code names for two of Denmark’s most celebrated resistance fighters, young men who, as members of a small cell, killed an untold number of Nazis and Danish collaborators before being finally tracked down before the end of the war.

They’re an odd pair: Flammen (Thure Lindhardt) is just 23 and so named for his flaming red hair, while Citronen (Mads Mikkelsen, Denmark’s biggest star and best known as the villain in “Casino Royale”) is bespectacled and always sweaty with stubble on his face. As such, they would seem highly recognizable, but they nevertheless gather with their confederates at a local cafe patronized by top Nazis, including Gestapo chief Hoffmann (Christian Berkel).

The two also have a weakness for women — the married-with-daughter Citronen because he can’t bring himself to kill females, Flammen because he falls for a blonde number named Ketty (Stine Stengade) who may well be working both sides of the street. While this relationship simmers at arm’s length, the men go about their business. Taking orders from boss Aksel Winther (Peter Mygind), they methodically stake out their targets, then boldly approach and shoot. Although they are careful not to be observed, the risk is tremendous, and the film strongly conveys the strain every hit inflicts on the duo’s nervous systems.

Vintage newsreel footage presents the spectacle of Nazis rolling in to occupy Denmark early on, but the action is confined to the period between May and October, 1944, by which time it was clear to the Nazis which way the wind was blowing. With the endgame vaguely in sight, behavior on both sides becomes increasingly extreme; the two assassins are emboldened to greater audacity, while the Germans step up their retaliatory executions.

Showing enough of the city and environs to convey a sense of the oppressive German presence, Madsen nevertheless keeps his focus relatively tight. The leads’ psychology is not deeply plumbed, but certain traits are emphasized to suggest the personal effects of their activities. Flammen seems to get off on killing to an alarming degree, and the more he gets away with it, the more reckless he becomes. The permanently anesthetized Citronen is essentially dysfunctional except in the line of duty.

Performances are low-key but resolute and brimming with nerves and intensity. Lindhardt keeps Flammen’s wild side barely suppressed, while it’s almost funny how Mikkelsen maintains his two-day stubble so consistently, despite Citronen’s general unkemptness. As a brilliant fascist elder, Hanns Zischler brandishes more authority and charisma than anyone else in the cast.

While mostly keeping the style clean and free of visual trickery, Madsen and lenser Jorgen Johansson play rather fast and loose with the zoom at times. Karsten Fundal’s moody score is a plus.

Flame & Citron

Denmark - Germany

Production: A Sandrew Metronome (in Denmark)/IFC (in U.S.) release of a Nimbus Film production in association with Danish Film Institute, TV2 Denmark, Sirena Film, MBB Berlin Brandenburg, Wuste Film, Filmforderung Hamburg, Deutsche Filmforderfonds, Studio Babelsberg, Nordic Film & TV Fund, Eurimages. (International sales: the Match Factory, Cologne, Germany.) Produced by Lars Bredo Rahbek. Co-producers, Stefan Schubert, Ralph Schwingel, Charlie Woebcken. Directed by Ole Christian Madsen. Screenplay, Lars K. Andersen, Madsen.

Crew: Camera (color, widescreen), Jorgen Johansson; editor, Soren B. Ebbe; music, Karsten Fundal; production designers, Jette Lehmann, Friborg Nanna Due; art directors, Jens Lockmann, Anja Muller, Soren Schwartzberg; costume designer, Manon Rasmussen; sound (Dolby Digital), Hans Moller; visual effects supervisors, Jonas Drehn, Dominik Trimborn; line producer (Germany), Arno Neubauer; assistant director, Michaela Strnadova; casting, Rie Hedegaard. Reviewed at Telluride Film Festival, Aug. 29, 2008. (Also in Toronto Film Festival — Contemporary World Cinema.) Running time: 132 MIN.

With: Flammen (Bent) - Thure Lindhardt Citronen (Jorgen) - Mads Mikkelsen Ketty - Stine Stengade Aksel Winther - Peter Mygind Bodil - Mille Hoffmeyer Lehfeldt Spex - Flemming Enevold Hoffmann - Christian Berkel Gilbert - Hanns Zischler (Danish, German dialogue)

More Film

  • (L to R) VIGGO MORTENSEN and

    Will Oscar Nominations Give This Year's Contenders a Box Office Boost?

    With nominees like “Black Panther,” “Bohemian Rhapsody,” and “A Star Is Born,” the 2018 class of movies proved the Oscars don’t need a popular films category to recognize movies that also made bank in theaters. But now that the academy has selected this year’s crop of awards hopefuls, is there any green left to squeeze [...]

  • A24 Buys Sequel to Tilda Swinton's

    Sundance: A24 Buys Sequel to Tilda Swinton's Romance-Drama 'The Souvenir'

    A24 has bought the North American rights to Tilda Swinton’s romance-drama “The Souvenir – Part 2,” closing the deal on the eve of the Sundance Film Festival. “The Souvenir” is set to make its world premiere at Sundance on Jan. 27, followed by playing in the Panorama section of the Berlin Film Festival in February. [...]

  • The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind

    Chiwetel Ejiofor Adds Authenticity to Directorial Debut by Shooting in Malawi

    When actor Chiwetel Ejiofor optioned the rights for the 2009 best-seller “The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind,” penning the screenplay for a feature directorial debut that world-premieres in Sundance and then appears in the Berlin Film Festival before being released globally by Netflix this spring, colleagues floated the idea of shooting the Malawi-set film in tried-and-tested [...]

  • ally billboard a star is born

    Oscar Campaign Spending Reaches New Heights in Competitive Season

    The escalating cost of awards campaigning may reach an all-time high this season as heavyweights such as “Roma” and “A Star Is Born” battle for Oscar gold. The quest for an Academy Award has always been expensive, but Netflix’s hunger to nab its first best picture win, coupled with the presence of legitimate studio contenders [...]

  • The Wizard of Oz

    'The Wizard of Oz' to Return to Theaters for 80th Anniversary

    “The Wizard of Oz” is returning to theaters this weekend for a special limited engagement marking the 80th anniversary of the film’s Hollywood premiere. Fathom Events, TCM, and Warner Bros. are re-releasing the beloved family film in select theaters across the country beginning on Sunday, Jan. 27, with additional dates on Tuesday, Jan. 29, and Wednesday [...]

  • Mandatory Credit: Photo by Jacek Bednarczyk/EPA/REX/Shutterstock

    Jonas Mekas, Influential Experimental Filmmaker, Dies at 96

    Jonas Mekas, the Lithuania-born filmmaker who started Film Culture magazine and the organization that became New York’s Anthology Film Archives, died Wednesday. He was 96. Anthology Film Archives wrote on Instagram, “He will be greatly missed but his light shines on.” More Reviews Concert Review: Lady Gaga Outdoes Her Other Vegas Show With Masterful 'Jazz [...]

  • Annapurna Hire

    Annapurna Ups Sue Naegle to Chief Content Officer, Names Ivana Lombardi President of Film

    Sue Naegle has been named chief content officer at Megan Ellison’s Annapurna Pictures. Naegle joined the company as head of television in 2016, and will now oversee development and production in film, TV, video games, and the company’s theater division. As part of the reorganization, Ivana Lombardi has been named president of film, a role [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content