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Den du Frygter (Fear Me Not)

Film Four Stars
Den du Frygter (Fear Me Not) struck me as an interesting film from the moment I read the blurb. Not only was Ulrich Thomsen starring, an actor I'd seen a number of times before and been very impressed by, but the plot sounded incredibly interesting. It looks at a normal family man who, during a break from work, gets involved in a drugs trial and follows the changes in his life and the effects of those changes on the ones around him.

It's a powerful thriller that is very well paced. It keeps everything bounded firmly in reality, and builds on the small details. Add to that the strong to great performances from the cast and the well written script, and Fear Me Not provides for a great film with quite a few surprises.

Plot.pngThe story follows a family man who is introduced to a drugs trial for a new anti-depressant, basically finding something to do as he takes a sabbatical from his work and finds himself increasingly bored and perhaps struggling a little bit with his place in life. However he soon becomes addicted to how the drug makes him feel, and when the trial is shut down with patients showing violent and moralistically questionable behaviour, he keeps his supply and continues to treat himself.

The change in his personality is ever so slightly noticeable to begin with, and to some degree these changes seem agreeable. However they soon start to bring about changes which affect him in ways that make others notice, and at times feel uncomfortable, upset and ultimately in danger from.

TheFilm.pngDen du Frygter (Fear Me Not) is a powerful film that delivers its message well. Typically for a non-Hollywood film, particularly a European one, the pacing is incredibly different and takes its own time to build, preferring to hold back and let the actors and characters reveal events through their normal interactions with each other rather than having the characters engineered into situations which progress the story and escalate the drama.

The evolution of the story, the main character, and the effects on him are all built on slowly and naturally, so that whenever the behaviour of the character changes you aren't taken out of the film to struggle with the leap or change in behaviour and it is, within the boundaries of the story, understandable. This feeling is even there, although to a lesser degree, when he is led to behaviour which is unnatural and out of character for many of us.

In the early parts of the film, while the characters are still being developed, there's a growing sense of unease that builds with the pace of the story and keeps you wondering what might be about to happen next. This feeling of unease and uncertainty carries through the film.

There are some particularly unnerving and uncomfortable moments, the scene driving the girl is one, another is when he's talking to his sister in law, a scene that marks the culmination of various other moments in earlier scenes, and it works really well.

The story is built very effectively, as are the characters, nothing too frantic or fast paced, and delivers a big surprise near the end, a well thought through one that really does work well and one I didn't see coming at all.

However there is a little disappointment as the film continues on past this point and the ultimate ending isn't all I thought it would be. Saying that it still keeps with the more realistic tone of the rest of the film.

It's worth saying too that this isn't what the average western cinema going audience member might assume from a story like this. In Hollywood we might expect the main character to go quite mad and end up in some form of mad slasher film, okay that's an extreme view, but that's the direction we would most commonly see. Not so here. This is a proper thriller, with real and less fantastical plot turns.

There are some moments that don't feel quite right or fully explored, the medical side, the visit to his childhood home, and a few other moments, and sometimes this did leave me wondering often in the wrong direction of the story, or left curious as to why we just walked away from a plot thread. However it doesn't adversely affect the film overall.

Ulrich Thomsen was a superb lead who delivered a natural, strong and subtly played performance throughout the film, dealing with the smallest changes in the character's mood to the bigger emotions called for in the ending of the film.

His wife, played by Paprika Steen, was also very good, although she only really comes to the fore when her life begins to be affected by his actions. The actress who plays his daughter, Emma Sehested Høeg, also copes well with many of the more awkward moments between them.

The way the film looked was, and apologies for using this word again, natural but that is actually the case. The picture kept realism in the colours and tones throughout with some great locations as the back drops.

Overall.pngI really enjoyed Fear Me not, it looked a great film and also delivered one through the story and the performances. It builds slowly and effectively in all aspects of the film and comes to a surprising and very interesting ending, one that doesn't leap beyond itself as many Hollywood thrillers would tend to. Couple that with a great performance by Ulrich Thomsen and Den du Frygter, or Fear Me Not, is a film that deserves a wider audience, and a film I really would like to see again.

Filmstalker at the Edinburgh International Film Festival 2009
Film details on UK IMDB




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