Open Hearts (Elsker dig for Evigt) (2002)

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Released 11-Feb-2003

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Menu Animation & Audio
Audio Commentary-Cast and Crew
Featurette-Open Hearts At Filmfestival (9:33)
Featurette-Press Conference: San Sebastian International Filmfestival
Deleted Scenes-With Optional Commentary (12:04)
Awards-Zulu Award (3:54)
Music Highlights-Music From The Soundtrack
Biographies-Cast & Crew
Gallery-Photo
Gallery-Poster
DVD Credits
Teaser Trailer-1.85:1, not 16x9 enhanced, Dolby Digital 2.0 (0:45)
Theatrical Trailer-1.85:1, not 16x9 enhanced, Dolby Digital 2.0 (1:49)
TV Spots-2
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2002
Running Time 108:47
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (34:07) Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Susanne Bier
Studio
Distributor
Nordisk Film
Warner Home Video
Starring Mads Mikkelsen
Sonja Richter
Nikolaj Lie Kaas
Paprika Steen
Stine Bjerregaard
Birthe Neumann
Niels Olsen
Ulf Pilgaard
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $39.95 Music Jesper Winge Leisner


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame Danish Dolby Digital 2.0 (384Kb/s)
Danish Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles Danish
Swedish
English
English Audio Commentary
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Elsker Dig For Evigt is a Dogme film.

    Okay, no need to head for the doors as quick as you are able. I am no film snob and watch films for entertainment, and whilst I have heard a lot about Dogme, I really had no idea what the whole deal was about, but running for the doors was about my reaction to the whole deal whenever I heard the word Dogme. Now if, like me, you are not really full bottle on what exactly Dogme is all about, it is basically a manifesto setting out certain rules about filmmaking. The main man of Dogme is Lars Von Trier. The main rules I can remember, or impute from the extras here, are: no film crew, hand held cameras, live sound recording, no special effects, no make up, no costume designers, no specially built sets and other such minimalist approaches to filmmaking. Oh, and it must be made for the "old" Academy ratio (that is Full Frame 1.37:1). The result is what unkind persons would describe as glorified home videos. Actually, what is does mean is what I would call honest filmmaking. You capture what you can on camera and live with it. No massive post production to fix up the goofs, no over-the-top special effects to detract from the film itself and no glorified settings and costumes. The actors bring what they can to the film in the way of clothing and you just make a movie.

    Movies like Elsker Dig For Evigt. Movies that prove in the simplest possible way that Hollywood really has lost the plot. Movies that can and do affect people in a basic way through nothing more than the skill of the actors and the director. Movies that actually surprise.

    Of course the process is not perfect and so you do get to see some of the warts-and-all approach of Dogme filmmaking here - jumpy edits and enough camera movement to induce motion sickness are a couple of problems that I certainly noted during Elsker Dig For Evigt. But you just ignore those problems and indulge the delights that yet another film that had languished on the dud list for ages manages to provide.

    Gorgeous Cecilie Pagh (Sonja Richter) is very much in love with Joachim Petersen (Nikolaj Lie Kaas). He is equally very much in love with her as he is about to pop the question to which she responds in the affirmative. As they start to plan their future together, their lives are supposed to be an affirmation of their love for each other although that affirmation ends up being anything but what they expected. An unfortunate accident sees Joachim reduced to a quadriplegic when he is hit by a car driven by Marie (Paprika Steen). As Joachim lies in the operating room having his horrendous injuries attended to, Cecilie meets Marie's husband Niels (Mads Mikkelsen), who happens to be a doctor at the hospital. Marie tries to come to terms with the accident and blames herself for the impact it will have on the young couple, especially as she believes it be her fault as she was arguing with her daughter, Stine (Stine Bjerregaard), in the car at the time. On its own, the accident will severely test the love between Marie and Niels, but Marie is so concerned about Cecilie that she actively encourages Niels to offer support wherever possible. With Joachim becoming a self-centred, self-indulgent prick as a result of the bad news from the accident, he rejects Cecilie and pushes her away despite her resolve to stick by him. Terribly confused about the whole thing, she seeks strength from the older Niels and comes to depend upon him to some extent. With their meetings being almost of a clandestine nature, Niels falls hopelessly in love with Cecilie and it becomes a true test to see whether he can leave his life with Marie and their three children. Cecilie, on the other hand, needs to determine whether she can actually overcome her love for Joachim and seek a life with another man. Things get even more complicated when Joachim starts to overcome his despair and seeks to resurrect their relationship, whilst at the same time Marie and Stine uncover the unmistakable truth of the true relationship between Niels and Cecilie.

    On the surface this is a fairly simple story but it is actually very well told, and very well brought to life through the aegis of some generally terrific acting. This is Sonja Richter's debut on film and on the evidence here she has a bright future ahead of her in the medium. Whilst Dogme certainly means that the reality has to be there in the performance to a rather large extent (long takes are easily handled and allow an actor to really get in there and get to the core of their characters), there is simply no doubting her performance here at all. The expectation, the distraught, the vulnerability, the reaching are all so genuine that you really have no trouble believing what you are seeing. Nikolaj Lies Kaas copped the Zulu for Best Supporting Actor (it's the equivalent of the Golden Globes in Denmark by the looks of it) and is terrific. The performance strongly reminded me of that of Leonor Watling in Hable Con Ella in many ways. Again, he is utterly believable and the emotion he manages to convey even when saying nothing whilst lying on that hospital bed is just wonderful at times. If there is any weak link in the main cast for me it was Mads Mikkelsen, who never really convinced me of the depth of his stated love for Cecilie, or for that matter Marie. Paprika Steen on the other hand was superb as his suffering wife, rivalling Sonja Richter in the believability stakes. The supporting cast all do a good job and the result is just some truly realistic filmmaking.

    Director Susanne Bier might have strayed from strict adherence to the Dogme rules (it's not a style by the way, even though the rules inevitably mean that the films doe have a distinct style to them), but I have to agree that any rules are guidelines, and as long as the integrity is there, hang strict adherence. She brings a nice pace and style to the film so that it never really lags and moves down the road it has to travel in an interesting and totally believable way. The great cast helped there, but so to did the wonderful screenplay written by Anders Thomas Jensen based upon her idea. It is infused with some rather subtle humour - I especially loved the discussion between Marie and Niels about sex - to very effectively balance the stronger emotions that the film releases elsewhere.

    One technique in particular that was well used in the film was the short "hints" of what might be at key moments during the film. The film itself was shot on digital video, but these "hints" are shot on Super 8 which lacks the colour of the video as well as being a lot grainier. These brief segments are designed to give you some inkling of the real thoughts of the character at the time they are making or proceeding with a vastly different track. It is very effective indeed and just provides a beautiful counterpoint of what might have been (or what was really wanted) to the reality of actual decision making.

    Funnily enough I watched this immediately after having watched Pedro Almodovar's much acclaimed (and Oscar winning) Todo Sobre Mi Madre. Whilst there is virtually nothing in common about the films - other than Spain apparently is a big market for Danish films - it did provoke an interesting comparison. The result of that comparison was simply that as good a film as Todo Sobre Mi Madre is, in my opinion Elsker Dig For Evigt is an even better film. I know that I am a strong advocate for non-Hollywood films but when you see quality of this measure, it is easy to understand why I love indulging in such films. Forget about all that Dogme rubbish, just indulge in this Danish film because it is a d*** good film.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    Since this is a Dogme film, it is of course shot with the Academy ratio in mind - 1.33:1 to most but actually 1.37:1. Obviously the transfer is presented in that ratio which of course accords to the theatrical aspect ratio. It is of course not 16x9 enhanced. Being shot on digital video means that inherently the source material is very good but with limitations. Obviously the comments below are based upon the digital video stuff and not the inherently, and deliberately, lower quality Super 8 footage. The latter lacks decent colour and detail and is much grainier - but this is all intended and it works extremely well in the main source material. There is also some heat-sensitive camera ("thermacam") footage used to open and close the film - it is really stunning looking stuff and the end credits are amongst the most imaginative and effective I have ever seen.

    You would be hard-pressed to find anything wrong with the transfer to raise concerns over. Indeed, during the reviewing of the film I did not make a single note as to any defect. Overall, this is a very good transfer and any concerns are more than likely source material inherent and therefore beyond anyone's control to rectify (even if Dogme rules allowed it). The image is quite sharp mostly with just the odd hint of digital softness when focus is still adjusting. Detail is wonderful too, with nothing missed at all. About the only quibble that could be raised is that thanks to the Dogme rule of no lighting (forgot that one earlier), some of the shadow detail could have been better (although having seen some digital video stuff, it equally could have been a lot worse too). Grain is not an issue other than when intended to be part of the film. Clarity is very good.

    Colours are very natural (well duh!) and it is surprising how different this looks to the normal "processed" film that we see. Different but much better in most respects. It is quite a vibrant image too, even though bright primary colours are not exactly dominant. Blacks are solid and skin tones very well handled. Aside from the thermacam colours which are naturally oversaturated, there is no issue at all with oversaturation and colour bleed.

    One of the problems with digital video is that during camera movement the image loses resolution very noticeably until the focus is re-established and the image stops moving. This means that rapid pan shots often exhibit little or no resolution and we see that here on a number of occasions. This is of course all source related and not evidence of any MPEG artefacting. Obviously being digital video there are no film artefacts to worry about, but I was concerned about inherent digital aliasing and so on. As it turns out, what little there is here is really very little and not at all distracting.

    This is an RSDL formatted DVD with the layer change coming at 34:07. I did not notice it during playback so it must be pretty reasonable (although do always bear in mind that my player does hide layer changes very effectively).

    Since we are talking about a Danish language film, subtitles are rather important for those of us who don't speak Danish. The available options are Danish, Swedish and English. How good are the English efforts? Buggered if I know - I don't speak Danish! For all I know they might be 99% inaccurate. All as I can say is that they make sense and certainly seem to gel with the on-screen action so they are presumably good ones.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    There is just the one soundtrack on the disc, being a Danish Dolby Digital 2.0 effort. Note that the package refers to the soundtrack as being 1.0 but PowerDVD certainly confirms that it is in fact a 2.0 soundtrack. Whilst such a recent film would be expected to have a six channel soundtrack, I am guessing that that too is against the Dogme rules as it was not how it was recorded. It may not be a six channel soundtrack - and the absence of such is hardly even noted during the film - but it is given a 384 Kb/s bitrate that is usually the domain of six channel soundtracks, not two channel soundtracks.

    Dialogue comes up well in the transfer and, assuming you speak Danish, is easy to understand. There are no apparent audio sync problems with the transfer.

    The original music comes from Jesper Winge Leisner, and of course it is in the little amount of music where we see one of the so-called major divergences from the Dogme rules. Since it is not recorded at the time of filming, it should not be here. Stuff it! Most, if not all, of the music is actually in the form of songs specially written for the film and mostly very good they are too.

    Since the sound was recorded "live" it is surprising how good it is. It makes you wonder whether all that post-production processing that normally happens is in fact a waste of time and filmmakers should record live! Sure there are extraneous noises here and there - some come from the camera itself - but most of what is recorded is pure ambience behind the dialogue and it works very well indeed. There really are no complaints about the audio, for what we get is exactly what was recorded and it does the job more than adequately.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    A very decent package has been assembled for this release, quite surprising in some respects. Most of course is in Danish so you will have to rely upon the English subtitles that are available for all the extras (selectable of course, just in case you do speak Danish). All extras are presented in a Full Frame format that is not 16x9 enhanced, unless noted otherwise. The sound is Dolby Digital 2.0, the language is Danish obviously.

Menu

    Nicely done even if a little unadventurous, with some audio and animation enhancement being employed here and there. Hopefully that does not infringe any Dogme rules! There is some dot crawl in the selection highlighter for the special features.

Audio Commentary - Susanne Bier (Director), Nikolaj Lies Kaas, Sonja Richter, Paprika Steen, Mads Mikkelsen (Actors) and Vibeke Windelov (Producer)

    It is very difficult to judge how good this is simply because trying to listen to an audio commentary in a foreign language whilst trying to read the English subtitles, whilst also watching the film to understand what they are talking about is not at all easy. Add to that the fact that I generally don't like audio commentaries and this really is a tough one to assess. Starting straight out and Susanne Bier starts with "now we have the start of the film". Immediate groan as this immediately sets the stage for a boring "look at what we're doing on screen now" effort that will be an interminable disaster to sit through. Well, thankfully things start to improve within a few minutes and we do get some interesting insight into the making of the film, the breaking of Dogme rules, Nikolaj Lies Kaas' wardrobe selections and other stuff that is rather relevant to the making of a Dogme film. As such, it is an interesting enough effort if you can handle the audio/subtitle/film juggle - which I really struggled with.

Featurette - Open Hearts At Filmfestival (9:33)

    Based around the showing of the film at the San Sebastian International Filmfestival in 2002, this is a decent look at not just the film festival experience but the reactions of cast and crew involved in the film and its premiere at the Filmfestival. The subtitle options here are Danish, Swedish and English. There is nothing really wrong with the presentation other than some aliasing.

Featurette - Press Conference: San Sebastian International Filmfestival 2002 (26:56)

    A more extensive effort and a much more interesting effort too. With the main cast and crew participating, they field some generally reasonable questions from the press. Most of the press conference is actually conducted in English so the soundtrack is really only notionally Danish and subtitles are only really required for the translation of the journos questions where they are not asked in English. You will also hear the moderator's translation of the question so even those subtitles are really not necessary. Most of the questions are fielded by director Susanne Bier. It does provide an interesting insight into the whole Dogme thing at times. The subtitle options here are Danish, Swedish and English. The technical quality is very good.

Deleted Scenes (4) (12:04)

    Well, strictly speaking only three deleted scenes, plus some more thermacam footage, all with an optional commentary from director Susanne Bier to explain the reasons for the excisions:

    There are only English subtitles available for this extra. The technical quality is on a par with the feature film, which is hardly surprising given that it was all shot on digital video (except the thermacam stuff obviously).

Awards - Zulu Awards (3:54)

    Nothing different between awards ceremonies it seems! This is the Danish equivalent of the Golden Globes it seems, and it is the ceremony for Best Supporting Actor won by Nikolaj Lies Kaas. It suffers somewhat from aliasing. The subtitle options are Danish, Swedish and English..

Music Highlights - Music From The Soundtrack

    An audio only presentation with the four song selections playing over the menu, once you have selected the song you want to listen to. The songs are:

    They are all performed by Anggun, presumably the lady whose picture forms part of the menu. The audio is English for a change.

TV Spots

    Two different spots but very, very similar to each other. TV Spot 1 runs for 0:25 and TV Spot 2 runs for 0:35. The presentation is 1.85:1 letterboxed in the 1.33:1 frame. There are only English subtitles available for these, and the quality is fine.

Teaser Trailer (0:45)

    Also letterboxed in the 1.33:1 frame, the presentation is consistent with the TV Spots.

Theatrical Trailer (1:49)

    Once again letterboxed in the 1.33:1 frame, this is again consistent in presentation style to the TV Spots and Teaser Trailer.

Gallery - Still Photos

    47 colour photographs taken from the film. Whilst unannotated, the presentation is a very welcome change - thumbnails which you can select to see the full size image. A pity that more such efforts are not presented in this fashion - it looks a load better.

Gallery - Poster Artwork

    10 colour images in the same presentation style as the still photos.

Biographies - Cast And Crew

    Reasonable filmographies rather than biographies for Sonja Richter, Mads Mikkelsen, Nikolaj Lies Kaas, Paprika Steen, Stine Bjerregaard, Susanne Bier, Anders Thomas Jensen and Vibeke Windelov. All start with a photo page with the actors each getting two pages of notes, the director two pages of notes, the writer five pages and the producer four.

DVD Credits

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    Whilst the Region 4 release is coded for Region 4 only, it is in fact identical to the Region 2 (UK) release. As far as I am aware this has not been released in Region 1. From my limited grasp of Danish (mainly taking a stab in the dark) it would appear that the Region 2 (Danish) release is very similar to the Region 4. The Region 2 (Italian) release differs in having an Italian soundtrack but is a DVD5 so loses nearly all the extras. All up it looks like either the Region 2 (UK) or Region 2 (Danish) versions are the only viable competitors for the Region 4 - so stick with the local release.

Summary

    In so many ways I am very glad that Elsker Dig For Evigt (or as we know it here, Open Hearts) languished unwanted on the dud list for so long. Whilst it is not quite an undiscovered gem, it certainly lived up to the billing that it had been given from things I had read prior to selecting the DVD for review. It is a terrific film, featuring some excellent acting, and a film that I certainly intend to return to again shortly. If you want to investigate something a little bit different, and not just because it's a Dogme film, then you really should check out this DVD. Of course, the RPI might be a serious disincentive... Once again I am more than a little baffled by the MA rating - the language is not that bad and the sex scene is hardly the most spectacular ever seen.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ian Morris (Biological imperfection run amok)
Thursday, April 15, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDDenon DVD-1600, using RGB output
DisplayLoewe Aconda 9381ZW. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationYamaha RXV-795
SpeakersEnergy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right C-2; rears EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL

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