Mini-Review: Mifune (1999). The Third Dogme Film and Already Breaking the Rules.

mifune 1999
Originally published on filmstvandlife.
Kresten (Anders W. Berthelsen) just got married. After his first wedding night, he wakes up to a phone call informing him that his father has passed away. He has to leave for the Danish countryside, but the thing is that his wife didn’t even know he had a father or a brother. Kresten returns to his old home, a farm in the middle of nowhere. After the death of his father he now has to deal with his intellectually challenged brother Rud (Jesper Asholt). He decides to hire a maid, Livia (Iben Hjejle), who’s actually a prostitute. Things get more and more complicated as his wife finds out how many things he’s been keeping from her. 

Mifune (original title: Mifunes sidste sang, which literally means “Mifune’s last song”) is the third Dogme 95 certified film. It was directed by Søren Kragh-Jacobsen, who also co-wrote the screenplay and won the Silver Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival. While the film appears in the Dogme aesthetic, there are several “transgressions” to the so-called rules of chastity, which are self-imposed anyway. Who can really fault a film for wanting to be more cinematic? While most of the “technical” aspects adhere to the Dogme code, the film doesn’t feel very Dogme, if that makes sense.

It’s still a very effective story, with lots of twists and turns, maybe too many, but it certainly keeps the viewer entertained. A lot of things happen plot-wise, but I’m not sure that they all pay off in the end. I like that Kresten never finds out that Livia is actually a prostitute. I was a bit surprised however how little the two brothers grieved their father’s death. I don’t know how Danish people handle the death of a family member, but from what I know it’s devastating. In Mifune the issue only seems to be a plot-device, but it’s never really explored how he or Rud feel now that they only have themselves to rely on.

What the film does explore in a very satisfying manner is how mental sanity is relative. In theory Rud is the crazy one, but on more than one occasion he seems to be the only good person. While there’s a lot of prejudice against people who are cognitively disabled, we can learn a lot from their honesty, empathy and simplicity. I also like how they discussed the prejudices city folks have towards people living in the country. Kresten himself learns not to hate his origins, but making peace with who he is and accepting himself. That’s ultimately the key to his happiness, well that and his new relationship with Livia.

Maybe it’s a little too obvious that Livia is a better match for Kresten than his wife, even if she is an unsophisticated prostitute. I still thought that was sort of romantic, although slightly cliché. I also enjoyed the character of Bjarke (Emil Tarding) in this film, as Livia’s brother. When we first meet him he’s an outcast, he makes fun of Rud, he’s horrible to his own sister and just generally negative. By the end of the film there’s definitely an arc and some redemption happening. What has changed? He finally found a family, which allowed him to change his attitude towards life and stop being so self-centered. Like I said: It’s a very sweet movie.

7 out of 10

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