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Friday, 22 November 2013

Idea and execution: "Detektiv Downs" and "Philomena"

[These 2 films have nothing in common and are not comparable in any way. I put them together quite randomly after watching "Detektiv Downs" on Sunday and "Philomena" on Wednesday, and somehow it fits to write about these 2 films because they demonstrate a point, that an idea is 1 thing but what really matters is how it's executed. That's all.] 

- "Detektiv Downs": This is a Norwegian film. The posters were everywhere and people were talking about it and it even appeared in foreign news, so I thought I should check it out though, considering it a Norwegian film, I honestly didn't expect very much.
The film's worse than I thought.
As it turns out, the only reason people talk about "Detektiv Downs" is the casting of an actor with Down's syndrome. The film begins with a decent idea, Robert, a 28-year-old guy with Down's syndrome, wants to be a private detective like his dad but always struggles because people, understandably, reject him, and 1 day he gets a case, blah blah. Except that most ideas are OK, what matters is how they're executed, and in this case the idea's executed badly.
It's not clear how Robert finds the money but let's just put the blame on my lack of proficiency in Norwegian, there are still laughable details such as: the chasing guy obviously runs slowly and sometimes pretends to fall and pretends to be unable to get up so that the chased guy can escape, the people who come to rescue come at the right time and easily find the right place and easily get Robert and the girl out, the detectives looking for a person find a corpse and happily say they've solved the case and then give the corpse to the family for a funeral without checking DNA or anything that proves they've found the right guy, the detective dad always appears on time to save his son, the baddies don't take the chance to run away when Robert gets shot because- you know- it's a sad and moving scene, etc. I know it's a comedy, but it's still ridiculous. More like a joke. The plot's silly and the dialogue's silly, both when they mean to be funny and when they try to give a lecture, try to sound humane and compassionate. Above all the film's unbearably mawkish, due to the dialogue and the sentimental tune used in a trite way, which plays whenever there's a scene which is meant to be sad but which ends up being hackneyed and cheap.
There's a thin line between what's touching, thought-provoking and what's mawkish, and several Norwegian films I've watched belong to the latter group, such as this one, "Pornopung", "Appelsinpiken" and "Hjem til jul".

- "Philomena": This is an example of a well-done execution of a fairly simple idea.
It's about an old, religious Irish woman who, with the help of a nonreligious, Oxford-educated journalist, tries to find the son she lost while living in a strict, intolerant convent 50 years previously. The reason she doesn't do it earlier is her feeling of shame, her belief that it's a sin to have sex with a guy she doesn't know, and then to have a baby, therefore she tries to bury the truth in the back of her head, revealing it to no one. 
This film is excellent on many levels. As a whole it's a powerful film, inspired by true events, showing the world the situation of many women who lived in such a convent in Ireland and lost their children. The brilliancy of it all is in the characterisation, the dialogue and all the small details, and of course, the acting. While there are significant differences, "Philomena" is reminiscent of the Brazilian film "Central do Brasil", involving 2 very different people getting on a journey together and coming to understand each other and to change themselves. The tiny details show the 2 characters' personalities, interests, tastes, religious views, views on life, and also show the clash of views and values between them, with a humorous touch at times, which is elevated to even a higher level by the acting of the great Judi Dench, and Steve Coogan.
A must-watch.

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