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Danish director Christoffer Boe returns with an ambitious project whose overall construction appears familiar. Resembling the director's award-winning Reconstruction pic is fractured into tiny "memory" bits which lead to a larger, complicated enigma.
Zetterstrom (Ulrich Thomsen) is a prosperous pianist who has dedicated his life to perfectionism. His social life however is practically non-existent - he is alone, without friends, living only for his music. During a trip to Copenhagen Zetterstrom encounters an ex-lover who instigates an unexplainable chain of events. In a restricted part of the city known as "The Zone" Zetterstrom will uncover that someone has erased his memory.
Difficult to analyze and substantially more challenging than his previous work Boe's Allegro mixes elements of thriller, drama, and sci-fi in a colorful collage of images many will likely find impossible to link together. The main reason for it should be obvious from the very beginning - there are numerous sub-layers of content which place the viewer in a never ending guessing mode.
While in Reconstruction the memory flashbacks were more subdued and logically explainable in Allegro the plot gets wilder by the minute. The supposed love affair used as a foundation for the story is nothing more than an excuse to embark on an imaginative trip of "what ifs". In fact, after the main protagonists are introduced to each other the only aspect of the story which remains constant is the perception of time: for Zetterstrom time is the one and only clue.
Logically, the romantic element quickly loses its appeal. When Zetterstrom enters The Zone Boe unexpectedly shatters all previous plot explanations the audience might have entertained granting his film a second exposition. The approach is indeed unconventional leading to a finale I have a difficult time believing would be universally approved of.
The grand vision of a man slowly deteriorating under the weight of his passion, in this case not a human being but music, is however impressive. The emotional transformation Zetterstrom undergoes is what carries this film through troubled waters, grants the storyline a sense of authenticity. More importantly it also blends incredibly well with the film's complex progression. At the end it really comes down to whether or not one is willing to abandon one's sense of logic and immerse into Boe's milti-dimensional world. Suffice to say if willing to take the trip don't second guess the director, he is more than convincing.
In 2006 the film won the Robert Award for Best Cinematography (Manuel Alberto Claro). During the same year the film was also nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival.
How Does the DVD Look?
In a uncharacteristic for Koch Lorber Films move Allegro has been altered from its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and presented in a chopped 1.78:1, enhanced for widescreen TVs, version. This is a very disappointing occurrence given the film's rich camera work and subtle use of color. This being said, the grainy look Boe favors is well-preserved and contrast perfectly represents the director's vision, it is delicate and very telling of the main protagonist's mood swings. Print damage is nowhere to be seen and the overall quality is indeed very good. Unfortunately, as already mentioned above, the fact that Koch Lorber Films have not preserved the original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 is indeed very, very disappointing.
How Does the DVD Sound?
Presented with a Danish DD track and optional yellow English subtitles the audio is practically flawless. Dialog is very easy to follow and I could not detect any disturbing drop-outs or hissings. Of course, the fact that this release lacks the excellent DTS track found on the Danish is very telling.
Aside from the original theatrical trailer and a photo gallery the only extra of interest on this release is a "Making of" featurette which shows the director on location in New York and Denmark while "in action". The piece is similar to HBO's First Look as it sheds some light on the premise behind the film as well as the technical process.
Despite some initial mixed reviews not too long ago I ended up importing this film and liked it quite a bit. I don't think it is as stellar as the director's Cannes winner Reconstruction but it is nevertheless highly original, exceptionally beautiful. This being said it is a shame that Koch Lorber Films couldn't get a proper version of it on our market.