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Blu-ray Review

DVD cover

Sons of Denmark
(Blu-ray & DVD Dual Format)


Starring: Zaki Youssef, Mohammed Ismail Mohammed and Rasmus Bjerg
Distributor: Eureka Entertainment
RRP: £12.99 (Blu-Ray & DVD Dual Format)
Certificate: 15
Release Date: 17 February 2020

In Sons of Denmark, writer/director/auteur Ulaa Salim’s feature film debut, everything is not as it appears, in fact nothing is and all societal hell is heliarc torched into a catabolic combustion of fear, doubt and mind numbing betrayal.

Here is a thriller reaching beyond a duality of oppressed and oppressor. It dares to scrutinize the toolkit of tyranny and therein the origins of totalitarianism. Hannah Arendt is at home in this Copenhagen, sunny and spotless along with both sides of the spinning totalitarian coin: Hitler and Stalin. To pick one templated icon or the other is to be mesmerized in the great spinning con game of history, enthralled by the scholastic scribe who writes it but ever befouled in folly. Is “cultural respect” a license for immigrants whose birthright societies piously allow no legal equality with any religio-political culture not their own, a justification to ignore five hundred years of contract law in their new homes? Are secular humanist “inalienable” human rights cut to order for the expediency of keeping imported cheap labour happy and cooperative? Does any of this matter to the tyrant mindset using chaos to the end of total control?

Muslim immigrants in tomorrow’s Denmark are the objective of a rising right wing nationalist political party called The Sons of Denmark. Acts of terror raise the heat. Family grudges are born of grief over loved ones lost to terrorist attacks. Escalation is inevitable. Superficial similarities with Gillo Pontecorvo’s 1966 classic The Battle of Algiers come to mind then evaporate. The tectonic fissures of race, religion and legal equality are obvious, yes, but this is where the similarity to Pontecorvo stops. We now are immersed in the irony of former colonial subjects living next door or rather in the ghetto down the street. What does the former colonizer do when its human rights mercy has become a banner of making room for immigrants? It grows reactionary in the name of force majeure, protecting its culture empowered by a politically sacred writ of mandamus.

People either hate this film or love it.

Muslims led by terrorist cell leader Hassan (Imad Abul-Foul) are inspired to die for wrongs suffered at the hands of Danish nationalists, the most hated and feared, The Sons of Denmark led by the oddly charismatic, Martin Nordahl (Rasmus Bjerg). Nineteen year old Zakaria (Mohammed Ismail Mohammed) is motivated to follow Hassan. He is given a handler, Ali (Zaki Yousser) and the two bond while Zakaria trains to assassinate Nordahl before the coming election which the Danish nationalist is expected to win. Nordahl’s slogans on TV are things Hitler would have said in the 1930s about Jews, gypsies and LGBTQ demographics.

Ali drives Zakaria to Nordahl’s dark house. They know the location of his bedroom. It will take ten seconds Ali tells Zakaria to walk in and shoot him in the head. Zakaria enters the dark house...

Some reviewers don’t mind spoilers and enjoy spoiling this picture. I do. It is a thriller and the first mind bending twist happens here. It is followed by another twist. And finally a last one that’s a heartbreaker. Fair skinned Danish nationalists [and several of these resemble the Nazis in the first Indiana Jones movie, Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) and The Boys From Brazil (1978) who knife Steve Guttenberg (obscure references, eh?) But what do you want for the most depressing and sad movie you are ever going to see but probably won’t because you’re too chickenshit and want to hide in the masturbatory fantasy of Call Of Duty and I, your humble and obedient reviewer, watched it for all of you, alone in my quarantine lockdown apartment because it had my only available Blu-ray player?

People who hate Salim’s work of art, damn everything about it. None of this is deserved. I say this explicitly and without cant. The direction, writing, production design and cinematography are cunningly effective. Cinematographer Eddie Klint, no doubt working hand in glove with Salim, varies his depth of field for relentlessly psychological tension. Wide depth of field is documentarian in its encapsulated detail. But there are times when the second protagonist, Ali (I’m not spoiling things here, see? I do care about this film hiding and revealing itself for you because I value your virginal cinematic experience, no matter what else you may think of me) is moving close to us in sharp focus and his Danish societal background is consciously out of focus. A lone figure moving through a panoramic blur. Varied depth of field has rarely been so adroitly applied for subliminal and philosophical effect. The thrill of this thriller is existential angst worthy of the feeling in a novel by Sartre or Camus.

Dualism and Manicheism are washed away by chaos, the favourite tool of tyranny. Allah and Jehovah take a back seat in the chariot of history to old Egyptian Apophis and his reprobate female familiars, Eris for the Greeks and Discordia for the Romans and not to forget that homunculus bastard Loki, designed especially for those Norse tribesmen like Martin Nordahl and the DSIS (Danish Security and Intelligence Service) who keep Hannah Arendt’s coin spinning for us dupes, marks and groundlings

The Eureka 1080p Blu-ray (with a progressive encode on DVD) has optional English subtitles with its Danish/Arabic soundtrack. Its colour timing is most notable for its prominent reds and blacks which are continuing motif throughout. A booklet with an insightful essay by film scholar Jason Wood is included along with an interview with director Ulaa Salim. Salim is someone to watch, he has the potential to be one of our great writer/directors.


John Huff

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