Susanne Bier (director)
Published: Nov 12, 2009
When we meet them, Jannik, the bad brother, is just getting out of prison — he’s such a screwup he failed even at bank robbery.
The grieving is intense. And ugly. The father of the brothers stands six inches from the face of his bad son and announces, “Now I have nothing.”
Brothers was easily the most powerful film I saw in 2005. It was directed by Susanne Bier, who directed the most powerful film I saw in 2007, After the Wedding. If you saw them back to back, you’d know they were by the same filmmaker — I can’t think of another director who chooses such nakedly emotional stories and then delivers every big emotional moment they contain — with hand-held cameras, at close range — with such total fearlessness.
These movies work precisely because they’re so tough to watch — in the way, that is, that real life can be tough. The trouble the characters are in, it’s real trouble, not movie trouble. A soldier brings the war home. Happens every day. And we imagine what that’s like for his wife, their kids, friends and family — but we have no clue. Because every veteran is different. And, of course, because the wars we fight now are so different from our lives at home that we have no idea what happens there.
It takes great acting to make a movie like this play out as if it’s reality TV — as if the director somehow gained the rights to the story of a family unraveling and a new family emerging. Ulrich Thomsen and Nikolaj Lie Kaas aren’t actors known to us; they should be. And Connie Nielsen as the wife is just sensational; it’s impossible to believe she usually appears in Hollywood blockbusters.
Or rather, it looks great — until you see a trailer for Bier’s version: