Thursday, 19 November 2009

LEEDS FILM FEST REVIEW: Love and Rage


One of my absolute faves of the festival. I can tell a film is good when I become so immersed in it that I don’t a) start thinking about how much more there is left, and b) start reviewing it there and then. The story was so intense and it unfolds superbly moment by moment until you’re at the end and – deep breath – you have to assess what’s just happened.

Daniel is a musical prodigy, with an extraordinary talent for classical piano inherited from his father. His dream is to go to a top musical school in New York and to do that he acquires the services of the best piano teacher at his academy, Pierre to coach him.  He has problems with his nerves when playing in front of an audience, but other than that Daniel is a normal teenager with a passion for music. Until he meets Sofie (the indie beauty Sara Hjort).

Now we get the ‘Love’ – Daniel becomes infatuated, and stalks her to get information so he can ‘arrange’ to bump into her at a gig. His luck’s in as she is taken with him too, and soon the two of them are a young, happy, lustful couple.  He takes her free-spirited and spontaneous comments as gospel (“I’ll come with you to New York and we’ll live together!”) and his mind is so consumed with thoughts of her his piano practices begin to suffer. It’s around this time we learn what has happened to Daniel’s father – he was very depressed and he killed himself a year earlier, and a line uttered by Pierre “maybe you inherited more than just talent from your father” begins to come true. A minor disagreement in the cinema on a date with Sofie leads to an outburst from Daniel so horrifying and violent he ends up in a prison cell overnight and his girlfriend shaken to the core.

And so begins the ‘Rage’. Daniel’s mother begins a fling with Pierre and Daniel becomes fiercely jealous – that he is having to share someone so important with his mother. And when Pierre begins to teach Sofie, things slowly begin to spiral out of control. Daniel becomes fixated with the possibility of Pierre sleeping with his girlfriend, especially when Pierre leaves his mother. His behaviour becomes increasingly disturbed and dangerous – stalking Sofie (and this time not in a playful way), spying on her, watching her intently as she sleeps, his mind distorting her image so she is with Pierre. After a successful solo at the academy concert he has a full-blown argument with her as she begins to become frustrated with his possessive nature. Sofie and Pierre are innocent and they both love Daniel, but no amount of words or actions can change the idea Daniel has in his mind. The results are painful, brutal, immensely powerful and heavy to watch.

The acting in this film is excellent. The actor who plays Daniel in particular is a tour de force – there is a vulnerability to his appearance, but his descent into madness – just like his father – is wonderfully executed and pitch perfect. It is hard not to feel for him, but at the same time he is no longer a civilised human being and his actions cannot be undone. I’m sure there must be something dangerously consuming about being a pianist that leads to extreme emotions being created! This film reminded me a lot of a French film called ‘The Page Turner’ in that regard, and there have been other examples in film too. You wouldn’t get the same problems with a flute, I reckon.

An absorbing, potent film that gives as good as its title states – two uncontrollable emotions that are impossible to align and once mixed lead to huge explosions. It deserves so much success – here’s hoping for a wider release in Europe and good reviews spreading the word. I suspect it’s going to get tons.

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