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Deep into the underground belly of Aalborg, Denmark for Maria (Signe Olsen), Allan (Claus Ostergaard), and Steso (Thure Lindhardt) life is a perpetual state of self-denial.
Pain is what their lives are filled with- cold, heavy, often sickening.
Maria, Allan, and Steso never dream, they don't love, they are hardly even willing to live. So how do you fight a pain so persistent that you are no longer willing to breathe? Easy…you take drugs, lots of them!!!
Based on the novel by Jacob Ejersbo and directed by Ole Christian Madsen Nordkraft a.k.a Angels in Fast Motion is a film that explores the dark side of drug abuse. The film is comprised of three different stories that while not connected by a common theme develop simultaneously following Maria, Allan, and Steso through their struggle to overcome narcotic hunger. Each of the main characters represents a different stage of the addictive process that a junkie would go through.
Allan is the reformed drug addict looking to rebuild his life and possibly make a sense out of his troubled past. Unfortunately the underground world of Aalborg is not willing to negotiate let alone forget about him. Allan is quickly drawn back into a web of crime, shady drug dealers, and "friends" that are interested in the new business opportunities borderless Europe has to offer.
Maria is the indecisive often shy girl that is becoming increasingly weary of her role as a "transporter". However she is also hardly willing to part ways with the sweet and relaxing taste of cocaine. Especially when her boyfriend-tattoo-artist-dealer happens to be one of the few "pushers" in town.
Steso is the doomed junkie living on a borrowed time. He likes to read philosophy, he often visits his parents, and from time to time he even walks the streets of the living. But when his mentally sick girlfriend announces that she could no longer tolerate his drug habits Steso's world collapses with a bang.
I don't quite remember the last time I saw such a gritty and downright nasty film depicting the life of drug addicts. There is hardly anything left to the imagination of the viewer-point blank needle shots, explicit drug-infused sex scenes, narcotic hunger, human degradation, you name it Nordkraft has it. When Dogme sympathizer Ole Madsen decided to embark on this manic journey of a film and retell the stories of Allan, Maria, and Steso he surely did not shy away from making Nordkraft as realistic as possible.
From the opening scenes to its tragic finale Nordkraft is a visually stunning film. Sleek cinematography, edgy camera moves, at times even intentionally claustrophobic this is a film that pulls all stops and hits you in the face with anger so blatant I am afraid it might send the wrong message to its unsuspecting audience(s). There is something very unusual about the depth and authenticity this teeth-clinching production delivers, it certainly stays with you long after the end credits roll.
Much of Nordkraft's provocative style and flashy narrative have drawn some uncalled for parallels with Darren Aronofsky's acclaimed Requiem for a Dream which I would like to address (many of these claims surprisingly coming out of Denmark). Ole Madsen's film is as much of a "Requiem"-copycat as is Daren Aronofsky's film a replica of Uli Edel's Christianne F. (1981). There is simply no basis for comparison other than the few accelerated "high-shots" that could be found in Requiem for a Dream. On the contrary Nordkraft has a very prolonged and in my opinion spellbinding scene where Steso is suffering an overdose which I find painfully reminiscent to Christianne's narcotic hunger in Uli Edel's film. The visual style, the unflinching camera, and the painfully detailed depiction of the suffering Christianne undergoes are very much in synch with what we see in Nordkraft and Steso's final hours. Last but not least Ole Madsen did not invent the story of Nordkraft he simply followed the novel by Jacob Ejerbo (which he addresses in great length in his commentary to the film). Obviously any calls for intentional similarity in narrative are simply exaggerated.
If I had to describe Nordkraft in a simple sentence I would have to conclude that this is a "dark, dark, extremely dark film!!" one that leaves a wrenching and almost suffocating feeling in you mainly due to its gritty story and above all uncompromising performances by the leading actors. A provocative change of direction by Dogme enthusiast Ole Madsen Nordkraft is easily the best film to come out of Denmark this year (sorry Kongekabale)!
How Does the DVD Look?
Presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and enhanced for widescreen TV's Nordkraft boasts an impeccable picture quality. Quite frankly I don't remember the last time I saw a poorly produced Danish DVD and this one is not an exception-truly an all around spectacular image. The disc is PAL encoded. (* Please note that all photos in this review are "media-shots" and are not directly taken from the DVD reviewed in this article)
How Does the DVD Sound?
Offered with a Danish 5.1 track and a thunderous Danish DTS track Nordkraft delivers down to the smallest details. With an utterly impressive soundtrack (amazing music selection) the DTS track is superb!! Unpack, pop-in, and enjoy this excellent DVD!!!In Danish with optional English, Danish, Finnish, Swedish, and Norwegian subtitles.
Let me begin with the fact that this is one classy looking package. Presented in a sturdy four panel digi-pack this 3DVD set is a pure delight:
Accessible through an optional English, Danish, Finnish, Swedish, or Norwegian-interfaced menu systems the main feature is offered on disc 1 with a commentary by director Ole Madsen which is subtitled in English, plus the original theatrical trailer for Nordkraft. An excellent choice by the Danish producers allowing optimal video/audio quality for the main feature!!
Before diving head-on into the sea of extras provided on the second disc let me just mention that this is one of the most impressive English-friendly designed discs I have seen in a very long time. Nordkraft easily surpasses what you would expect from a Criterion release as there is hardly an area of the film that remains untouched by the Danish producers. Simply a phenomenal job!!!
Once again the viewer is given the option of accessing a 100% English friendly menu (you also get the option of setting the disc's menu system in Danish, Finnish, Swedish or Norwegian).
A commentary by director Ole Christian Madsen and Jorgen Johansson-this is a second commentary (different from the one provided on Disc.1) that addresses just about any aspect of the filming process you might be interested in. The commentary is designed as a prolonged interview separated in eight different sections (subtitled in English):
-180 Scenes in 40 days
-Editing the Movie
From Book to Picture- This would be an excellent resource for those criticizing the film's visual style and its "similarity" to Requiem for a Dream. Very insightful-
Insider-Watch selected scenes with a commentary by the leading actors-
Deleted Scenes- a selection of 10 deleted scenes. All of them feature optional English subtitles!!!
Music Videos- Four video clips by the following bands/performers:
-The Low Frequency in Stereo- "Astro Kopp"
-Pernille Vallentin Brandt- "Kiss Your Demons Away"
-Viva Vertigo- "Jaguar Tornado"
-Brimstone Butterfly- "Normality Kills the Cat"
-The Music in Nordkraft (Angels in Fast Motion): a short interview with the director Ole Madsen and his research of the Danish underground music scene. The director goes in great detail as to how he had to research hundreds and hundreds of CD's submitted by Danish bands. Remarkable!! (subtitled in English).
Interview- Yet another (third!!) interview with Ole Madsen
Featurettes- a total of 4 featurettes have been provided here each one focusing on a specific aspect of the film.
-A Day's Work
-Finding the Grief
Aalborg Sightseeing- Perhaps the most visually stunning piece of extra material on this DVD. I sure enjoyed it quite a bit. On a digital map showcasing the city of Aalborg where Nordkraft takes place you could click with your remote on a specific "area" and you will be taken to a scene that was shot in that specific area (a mind-blowing 19 of them). Very sleek and informative (the style and presentation of this extra reminded me of Enemy of the State and its digital overhead map shots). Great!!
The Characters- Each of the 8 main characters: Maria, Allan, Steso, Asger, Hossein, Maja, Frank, and Tilde are introduced with a detailed biography (under the name of the character of course appears the actor that portrays it).
Trailer- The original theatrical trailer (subtitled in English!!!)
TV Spots- a gallery of TV spots (subtitled in English).
The last piece of "extra" provided in this package is the entire original soundtrack of Nordkraft courtesy of Crunchy Frog/Nimbus Films. Filled with an array of excellent Danish underground artists/bands this is a soundtrack that compliments Nordkraft beautifully. With musical styles ranging from Massive Attack-esque heavy beats, to the alternative world of P.J Harvey and even influences of Depeche Mode I am simply blown away by the fact that none of these artists have made it to mainstream radio stations. EXCELLENT!!
Complete CD Listing bellow:
1. Jaguar Tornado - Viva Vertigo
2. Astro Kopp - The Low Frequency In Stereo
3. Fertilizer Baby - Powersolo
4. Beat City - The Raveonettes
5. Save Me - Kira And the Kindred Spirits
6. New Love - Majid
7. Virus - Mikael Simpson
8. Soundstepping - Ashtani-Baltzer
9. Stirrer På Atomer - Superjeg
10. Kiss Your Demons Away - Pernille Vallentin
11. Muggen Røv - Johnny Hefty
12. Jack Vegas - Mnemic
13. Movie Klip - Nephew
14. Baby, You Ain't Looking Right – Powersolo
15. Lilli Lilli - Gasolin
16. Please You - The Raveonettes
17. Whispering (edit) - Antenne
18. French Leave - Lise Westzynthius
19. New Autumn - Limp
20. Walking Through – Amber
Not only a visually stunning film but also a highly provocative one Nordkraft is easily the best Scandinavian film I have seen during the last six months. I liked just about everything in it-the slow pacing, the gritty look of it, the absolutely uncompromising manner in which it was directed, the risky yet very successful graphic scenes, and last but not least a cast that simply "gets it". This was certainly a fresh breath of air in a sea of Danish films where I have grown somewhat tired of seeing the same old faces over and over again. Not that I mind the likes of Mads Mikkelsen, Nicolas Bro, Paprika Steen, Nikolai Lie Kaas, Ulrich Thomsen,…it is just nice to see that Denmark has such an amazing pool of talent. They should definitely be proud of it!!!
As to the DVD presentation…what can I say, this has to be the most elaborate presentation of a Danish film (and all around English friendly at that) that I have seen. I am simply pleased to see such a deluxe presentation and perhaps more than a tiny bit jealous that R1 companies do not treat our films with such care. Just splendid!!
For those of you interested in seeing and owning Nordkraft I would strongly recommend that you opt for the Deluxe 3DVD set. The price difference between the regular one disc and 3DVD set is only about 45 Danish Kroner (DKK) which is less than 8.00$. For an extra 8.00$ you would get a lavishly designed 3DVD set with a beautiful booklet, a jam-packed second disc of extras (every single bit of extra material is subtitled in English, even the TV spots) and an entire soundtrack added to compliment this beautiful film. The disc could be obtained either through AxelMusic.dk or through the Aalborg-based (this is where the film takes place) Laserdisken.dk.
For audio samples, trailers, and additional information you could visit the film's official site at /www.nordkraftfilmen.dk/