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Above the Street Below the Water

Some of Denmark's best-known fortyish actors do their familiar shtick in this infidelity ensembler.

(Danish, Norwegian dialogue)

Some of Denmark’s best-known fortyish actors do their familiar shtick in the infidelity ensembler “Above the Street Below the Water.” Think Nancy Meyers’ “It’s Complicated,” but with additional couples, more melodrama and less broad comedy. Slickly crafted, attractively cast feature debut by former thesp Charlotte Sieling sold beaucoup ducats during domestic release last October, but feels too flat for festivals and too slight for arthouse play outside Scandinavia.

Action unfolds over 24 hours within the scenic confines of Copenhagen’s trendy Christianhavn neighborhood, where three couples turn out to be increasingly interconnected. Actress Anne (Sidse Babett Knudsen, as another selfish, self-dramatizing man-eater) and her long-suffering husband, Ask (Nicolas Bro), are clients of kayaking marriage therapist Charlotte (Ellen Nyman). Charlotte is the much younger wife of theater director Carl (Norwegian thesp Nils Ole Oftebro), who, for reasons left unexplained, craves sex with strangers.

Anne is about to learn that Ask is having an affair with drama critic Bente (Ellen Hillingso), whose charming but drunken ex-hubby, Bjorn (Anders W. Berthelsen, who can play this kind of role in his sleep) has illegally parked his barge in the canal under Charlotte’s window. Meanwhile, as the adults express their angst, their good-looking offspring (Lea Maria Heyer Stensnares, Mads Duelund Hansen) have problems of their own.

The ludicrous finale calls to mind Us magazine’s regular feature “Who Wore It Best?,” with Anne, Charlotte and Bente all sporting the same red dress for the opening of “Hamlet,” where, even more incongruously, Anne is cast against age as Ophelia.

Locals may see the pic as a comic commentary on the country’s incestuously small arts community, but foreigners will likely enjoy it most for the gorgeous views of the capital’s canal-lined inner city, lovingly shot in widescreen by ace lenser Jorgen Johansson (“Terribly Happy,” “Flame and Citron”). Shown by night as a twinkling jewel in the firmament of the harbor front, the new Copenhagen Royal Theater seems more beautiful here than any of the actresses.

Other tech credits meet the usual high Danish standards, with composer Thomas Hass Christensen’s jazzy score striking an appropriate mood. Pic’s title comes from the actual name of a Christianhavn street.

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Above the Street Below the Water


Production: A Sandrew Metronome release of a Nimbus Film Prods. production, in association with 41/2, Hepp Film, Sieling, Nordisk Film Shortcut, Mainstream, Kameraualejningen, with participation of DR TV, Canal Plus, the Match Factory, TV2 Norway, DFI, NFI, SFI, Nordisk Film & TV Fund. (International sales: Match Factory, Cologne.) Produced by Lars Bredo Rahbek, Bo Ehrhardt. Executive producer, Birgitte Hald. Co-producers, Aagot Skjeladal, Helena Danielsson. Directed by Charlotte Sieling. Screenplay, Yaba Holst, Sieling.

Crew: Camera (color, widescreen), Jorgen Johansson; editor, Mikkel E.G. Nielsen; music, Thomas Hass Christensen; production designer, Lars Nielsen; costume designer, Manon Rasmussen; sound (Dolby) Mick Raaschou; associate producer, Soren Green. Reviewed at Gothenburg Film Festival (Nordic Light), Feb. 2, 2010. Running time: 90 MIN.

With: (Danish, Norwegian dialogue)(Danish, Norwegian dialogue)

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