Rescue Dawn, Opens on 7/13
Filmmaker Werner Herzog specializes in cross-genre recountings of extreme people in extreme situations--either by their own design or happenstance. His last effort Grizzly Man, about a Californian who goes to live with giant bears in Alaska, was an unmitigated, albeit overrated, art house success.
In Rescue Dawn, Herzog revisits his 1997 documentary on Dieter Dengler, Little Dieter Needs to Fly. This time he fictionalizes Dengler’s story recounting the pilot’s experience as an American held POW in Southeast Asia during the early 1960s. Typical of Herzog’s characters, both real and created, Dengler possesses a singular focus, a drive that transcends obsession.
In Rescue Dawn, Dengler, flying a bombing mission over Laos, is shot down and captured. Placed in a makeshift prison camp, he meets other similar captives who have lost hope and much of their sanity. From the time of his arrival, he begins to plan an escape, entertaining no odds of failure. His biggest chore becomes getting the others to join him.
Rescue Dawn is not one of Herzog’s best efforts. The story, perhaps sticking too closely to the facts, fails to engage. The same undoubting, monochromatic state of mind that serves the captured pilot, also renders him mechanical and unsympathetic.
The real meat lies in the prison camp dialogue between Dieter and those who have had their minds and wills crumble. Herzog provides a window into the rationale of their marginal sanity. But this is not enough to save the rest of Rescue Dawn. At its heart, it is a prison escape film, a genre in which it fails to even approach the competition.
After the Wedding, DVD available
Melodramas, even as the term is loosely applied today, are seldom trustworthy with our emotions. With American television and film productions — as well as our food, sports, and so much more — subtlety and nuance are eschewed for redoubling crescendos, designed to excite our humors. For an audience accustomed to such, meting the stimuli at a rate consistent with discovery and savor requires a special film maker. Susanne Bier, a director from Denmark, fills the bill.
In After the Wedding , Jacob (Mads Mikkelson), a Danish expatriate, lives in India. There he runs an orphanage, where food and affection are at a premium. He loves his children and they love him. The relationships, given the uncomplicated priorities of survival, are simple but deep. When Jacob is called to Denmark, after two decades abroad, to raise money for the shelter, his reluctance to go is outweighed by the needs of his wards. His hesitance foreshadows a reckoning he could not have consciously anticipated.
In Denmark, Jorgen (Rolf Lassgard), the orphanage’s potential benefactor receives Jacob, asking for bit more time to consider the donation. In the interim, he suggests Jacob attend his daughter’s wedding scheduled for the next day. Not wanting to insult the holder of the purse strings, he attends, setting in motion a complex and selfless offer from his host.
After the Wedding, blessed by a strong cast, received an Oscar nomination this year. At times it stretches credulity--easily forgivable for this uplifting modern fable.