DIRECTOR: JEANETTE NORDAHL
CAST: SANDRA GULDBERG KAMPP; SIDSE BABETT KNUDSEN
DANISH; ENGLISH SUBTITLES
CERT 15; 90 MINS
RELEASE DATE: 13 AUGUST
REVIEW by SUSAN GRAY
Campaigners for better recognition of kinship carers will not be wild about Wildland, a super Danish debut feature from director Jeanette Nordahl.
Sandra Guldberg Kampp plays 17-year-old Ida, a teenager who has lost her addict mother in a car crash, and is sent to live with her aunt Bodil, a menacingly over tactile Sidse Babett Knudsen. ‘But I don’t know my aunt’ says Ida to social worker Omar, when he announces she is too young to live on her own. And there is good reason why Ida’s mother was estranged from her sister: Bodil is the matriarch of a violent crime family running a loan shark and extortion business in a bland chunk of rural Denmark.
The Scandi everyday normal appearance of Bodil’s home, with its wall lights, light wooden floors and deep dye bedding, adds to the film’s disconcerting feel. Can good design really happen to bad people? And Bodil’s clan are very bad indeed, with older son Jonas (Joachim Fjelstrup), driving his younger brothers Mads (Besir Zeciri) and David (Elliott Crosset Hove) to frighten loan customers into paying up. Jonas has an ever more distant relationship with his wife Marie and baby daughter, Mads is an arrested development mummy’s boy, and David is a heroin addict who keeps going walkabout.
Against this volatile background Knudsen dominates the room, clicking about the house in high heels and silk blouses, jewellery swaying and make up immaculate. And she speaks a sinister, mock soothing business speak, talking about ‘helping’ customers, and decrying the crime boss for being ‘impatient.’ She sees the family business as selling the most basic of commodities: energy, muscle, violence, and if the worse comes to the worse, sex. ‘Who would pay for these old tits?’ she asks at a family brainstorming session on how to bring in more money.
Ida’s role is complicated. At first she accompanies Bodil to the gaudy nightclub she manages, and the next day goes along for the ride with her cousins, as they head out to the country to rough up a late payer. She is conscious of the economic pressure to fit in and contribute, asking Bodil if she receives any money from the local authority to take care of her, and looks crestfallen at her aunt’s reply she only get children’s allowance ‘hardly anything’.
But when a child becomes involved in the family’s extreme repayment methods, Ida starts to question the part she will play in the family dynamic. And the pregnancy of David’s girlfriend Anna, shines a light on the limited future for women embedded in a criminal web.
Visually Wildland is a consistent delight, with extreme emotion played out against unremarkable interiors and exteriors, the disparity underling the depth of the human plight we are seeing. Goldberg Kampp’s composure is the perfect foil for her blood family’s volatility. And Ida’s torn loyalties between family and her sense of morals, and her quest for independence, is darkly resolved, in this elegant and clever film.