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Overall Rating
4.41

Awesome58.82%
Worth A Look: 35.29%
Just Average: 0%
Pretty Crappy: 0%
Sucks: 5.88%

2 reviews, 5 user ratings


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Open Hearts
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by Joe Cooper

"All the juicy questions are asked in Open Hearts."
4 stars

If you were suddenly paralysed from the neck down, would you encourage your partner to seek love and life away from your miseries? If you were breaking the speed limit, when you accidentally demolished a pedestrian, would you let the police in on that little fact? Is life too short to waste time propping up a tired and passionless marriage? These juicy questions and more are posed in Susanne Bier’s bittersweet Danish drama.

Open Hearts is the story of two Copenhagen couples unfortunate enough to meet each other. As the film begins, the viewer’s introduced to the charismatic yet earthy Joachim and Cecilie. It’s obvious that these two twenty-somethings possess a rare enthusiasm for life and for each other. Their love together is clearly the kind that lights up a room.

The other pair consists of the less intense, but equally likable, Niels and Marie. An overworked doctor and full-time Mum, Niels and Marie are lost in the wilderness of their late thirties and slowly drifting apart from each other emotionally. Their only remaining bond is the burdensome task of raising three children, including a spitefully rebellious teenage girl. There is some love left between the two, but it appears habitual and perhaps for the sake of appearances, rather than the true spark they may once have shared.

The couples meet in tragic fashion one innocuous morning. After kissing Cecilie goodbye, Joachim is promptly bounced off the front of Marie’s speeding car. What follows then is a freefall into a humanist nightmare. When the physically and emotionally shattered Joachim shuns his fiancé, guilt-stricken Marie encourages her husband, who works at the hospital, to strike up a temporary friendship and emotionally support the distraught Cecilie. It seems a likely course of action to salve everyone’s wounds, until Niels falls in love with Cecilie and she accepts his advances in the pursuit of sexual healing. A tragedy that wrecks one life quickly spreads to consume four.

Seldom does a film come along in which all of the main characters are acted out flawlessly. While Stine Bjerregaard, who plays Niels’ and Marie’s teenage daughter, leans heavily towards the melodramatic, the central four adult roles are delivered almost to perfection. Joachim, Cecilie, Niels, and Marie are brought to life with stunning performances by Nikolaj Lie Kaas, Sonja Richter, Mads Mikkelsen, and Paprika Steen respectively. These relatively unknown (at least in the English speaking world) actors shine and bring human warmth to the cold drama of Open Hearts.

Mads Mikkelsen, in particular, as the love-struck Niels, could provide more prominent actors with lessons in the art of avoiding stereotypes. Despite Niels' cheating ways, Mikkelsen manages to generate the necessary empathy required to make his character wholly believable. Cheaters, however deplorable, are not evil souls. They still love their children, and can be likeable despite their crimes. Mikkelsen understands this and delivers.

Susanne Biers and her crew have adopted the filmmaking tenets of the Dogme 95 movement for Open Hearts. In essence, only natural lighting has been used, rather than intense studio bulbs, and all sound has been recorded at the time the scene is performed. Rather than constraining Open Hearts, the adherence to the doctrine enhances the film’s human feel and produces the raw honesty that the story requires to transcend the ‘just another drama’ tag. That can’t be said for most of the films adhering to the monastic rigours of Dogme 95, so Bier’s achievements need to be lauded.

As well as providing fodder for an interesting conversation on the way home from the cinema, Susanne Bier’s film is a deeply moving drama that will stick in the heart and the mind. This cinematic marvel needs to be experienced to be believed.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=7060&reviewer=335
originally posted: 05/08/03 20:09:45
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Sundance Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Palm Springs Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Palm Springs Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Santa Monica Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Santa Monica Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Seattle Film Festival For more in the 2005 Seattle Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

1/16/09 Shaun Wallner Awesome Film. 5 stars
3/25/05 Elizabeth S My favorite film from 2003! 5 stars
6/10/03 James Korn Excellent Film 5 stars
5/23/03 Johan Jakobsson This movie is not only boringly low-key and underproduced, it hails adultery as "ok". Yay? 1 stars
3/02/03 Frederik Eltzholtz I just wayched the movie, and yes, I am impressed by the directors work (Susanne Bier) 5 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  21-Feb-2003 (R)

UK
  N/A

Australia
  15-May-2003




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