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Recent Movies: The Hunt; The Great Gatsby; Hannah Arendt

August 29, 2013

Recent Movies

The Hunt

In a small Danish town, a popular kindergarten teacher is scandalized when he is wrongly accused of sexually abusing a child.

The first half of the film has edge-of-your-seat tension.  There is a fine performance by the young actress (Annika Wedderkopp) who plays the young girl that makes comments that are misconstrued by others.  She’s not at all malicious; she’s just being child-like.  The unintentional evil comes from so-called child abuse “experts” who give too much benefit of the doubt on one side only.

As the main character, Mads Mikkelsen is great in the part.  In a scene where he must take difficult news, his body and face are still while all the emotion shows in the eyes only.  This is solid acting.

The second half is filled with predictable vigilante attacks on an innocent character.  One event could be foreseen very early.  This  unpleasantness is difficult slogging for the viewer, much like the Italian film “Malena” (2000).

Some major events were skipped over leaving the viewer the chance to fill in the blanks.  Sometimes this works well but it doesn’t quite work in this case.  The events include a judicial decision and the conclusion that skips a year and shows much has changed but does not show what happened to those in the community who ran to conclusions too quickly.  Had these quirks been worked out, a good film would likely have been a great one.

Rating (out of four stars):   * * *

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The Great Gatsby

Based on the F. Scott Fitzgerald novel, the film follows the antics of a mysterious wealthy man and the decadence of the wealthy in 1920s Long Island and New York City.

Director Baz Luhrmann (Moulin Rouge) has created a grand spectacle.  With great use of set decoration, costumes, and special effects, he has turned the film into great entertainment.

The timing of the film is appropriate as well.  The indulgences of the rich in the 1920s and their indifference to the rest of society is not unlike our current times.  The themes of secret love, old money vs. new money, and ironic tragedy make this a fine journey although the lack of informing the audience of the fate of some major characters seems to leave a hole considering the story is told in flashback.

Rating:   * * *

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Hannah Arendt

This film is a based on the life of the title character, a Jewish German who escaped the Holocaust and became a renowned political theorist in the United States.  The film takes place in the early 1960s when Arendt was assigned by the New Yorker magazine to cover the trial of Nazi criminal Adolf Eichmann.  Her articles caused great controversy.

Often photographed in dark tones, this film has that “exotic European” feel to it in a good way.  It’s difficult to know whether the film sides with Arendt or her detractors which, of course, is a plus.  In this way, the movie would be a great lead-in for much philosophical discussion following the movie.

With so much intellectual and philosophical discussion, the film exhausts the mind occasionally but only rarely.  With the great German actress Barbara Sukowa in the title role, the film shines even more, whether Sukowa is expressing herself in German or in English.  Her passionate defense of her writing in a scene near the end is a great movie moment.

Rating:   * * *

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