The Killing of a Sacred Deer
Visages villages
Happy End
A Ghost Story
Battle of the Sexes
Cinema's Essential Jetlag

Nordvest (Slow Criticism)

Denmark, 2013 | Michael Noer
Natalia Ames checked in from Lima to see the Danish film Nordvest, and experienced internal jetlag in her attempt to identify with a smalltime Copenhagen gangster.

I was asked to watch Nordvest, a Danish film about young people working for criminal gangs in the suburbs of Copenhagen. On many levels, this film did not seem very 'antipodal'. Although I am Peruvian, I currently live in the United Kingdom, so the urban landscape of a European capital is not strange to me. In terms of genre, it is certainly not the first gangster movie I have seen, hence the familiarity with which I can approach its narrative and codes. In the context of social problems, the film's depiction of the criminal underworld is an X-ray so similar to many other countries where the same elements are found: racial conflicts between rival gangs, prostitution, drug dealing and violence.

However, the game suggested by 'The Other Side(s) of the World' made me think about the way films travel and make the spectator travel along with them. It reminded me of Dudley Andrew and the essential jetlag at the heart of cinema as an international medium: 'Every genuine cinematic experience involves décalage, jetlag.' The slippage and the delay between what is filmed (and when, and where) and its actual reception by the viewers across many different geographies is what distinguishes cinema from other media; this is what makes this art a unique form of travelling.

For me, watching Nordvest did result in internal jetlag in my experience as a viewer. What could a young guy from Denmark, struggling to survive in the gang world of Copenhagen, have in common with me? Cinema answers this question by transporting us in a journey that, usually, leaves us asking many questions about ourselves. I could establish a dialogue with the character of Casper, the protagonist upon whom the whole narrative of the movie rests, and share his anxieties, his fears, his desire of approval, his gains and his losses. This complex character. played with surprising maturity by Gustav Dyekjaer Giese, conveys a strong feeling of empathy, supported by a solid script organised through growing tension.

This sensation of empathy is also established through careful verisimilitude: the gang world is portrayed in a remarkably realistic register that reminds one of the depiction of life in European social margins of the Dardenne brothers' films. Generic elements from the gangster film, such as the binary of loyalty to and betrayal of the gang and the rites of passage, are further complicated by Bjorn (the gang's leader) becoming a father figure for Casper and his brother Andy.

One especially interesting scene is a boxing practice at Bjorn's house, which shows the shift of Bjorn's attention from the older to the younger brother. As in many other moments in the movie, growing up and becoming a man are seen as kids' games (which the brothers seem to be unprepared to play, as they are shown as quite 'unprofessional' criminals). In the boxing practice, the mise-en-scène emphasizes the looks between the characters, looking for both approval and acceptance. The viewer is able to witness the subtle change from Casper protecting his brother to a competitive relationship, and the desperate search for a father figure or a sense of belonging — all through a playful yet tense approach.

Later, as a result of his actions, Casper finds himself at a dead end: the imperative of 'belonging to survive' (loyalty to the gang) becomes 'belonging or survive' (escaping from the criminal world before it kills you). In this way, Nordvest asks questions about symbolic bonds, challenging our ideas about the need to establish human ties and confronting our notions on family and identity issues. A gangster tale in the suburbs of Copenhagen, then, becomes a cinematic journey through Casper's emotions. His fragility, exposed in specific parts of the film, is a window to explore his personality and his motivations — making us his accomplices.

The effect of a Danish gangster film moving me so much made me think about universal concerns, opening a reflection on the way films themselves now travel. By adapting genres to different geographies, they can re-tell stories about family issues, yet treat cinema in a way that it can still be fresh, touching and establish empathy with its characters without judging them. Watching Nordvest in the United Kingdom, a place where I am currently searching for a sense of belonging, made my viewing experience even richer. But in the end, who isn't searching for it?

Natalia Ames is a Peruvian film critic and journalist, currently following a Master's programme in Film Studies at the University of Sussex.



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Nordvest (Slow Criticism)

Filmkrant #351, February 2013

Slow Criticism 2013

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N — The Madness of Reason
N'OUBLIE PAS QUE TU VAS MOURIR
NA PUTU
NAAR DE KLOTE!
NACHMITTAG
NACHO LIBRE
NACHTRIT
NACHTVLINDER
NADIE CONOCE A NADIE
NADINE
NAISSANCE DES PIEUVRES
NAKED
THE NAKED CITY
NAKED GUN 33 1/3
NAKED IN NEW YORK
THE NAKED PREY
THE NAMESAKE
LA NANA
Nannerl, la soeur de Mozart
THE NANNY DIARIES
NANNY MCPHEE
NANNY MCPHEE AND THE BIG BANG
NAPOLEON
Napoléon
NAQOYQATSI
NARC
NATHALIE
National Gallery (Frederick Wiseman over)
NATIONAL SECURITY
NATIONAL TREASURE
NATIONAL TREASURE: BOOK OF SECRETS
THE NATIVITY STORY
NATURAL BORN KILLERS
Nature
DE NATUURLIJKE RUIMTE
The Navigator
THE NAVIGATORS
NE LE DIS À PERSONNE (TELL NO ONE)
Ne me quitte pas
NEAK SRE
Nebraska
NED KELLY
NEDS
Need for Speed
NEEDFUL THINGS
THE NEGOTIATOR
LA NEGRA ANGUSTIAS
Les neiges du Kilimandjaro
Neighbouring Sounds
NEKO-MIMI
NELL
NELLY ET MR. ARNAUD
Nelsons No. 5
NEMMENO IL DESTINO
Nena
NÉNETTE ET BONI
Neon Bull
The Neon Demon
NEROLIO (Aurelio Grimaldi over)
Neruda
Nerve
THE NET
The Net (Geumul)
THE NETHER-HORROR COLLECTION
NETTOYAGE À SEC
Never a Dull Moment
NEVER BEEN KISSED
NEVER LET ME GO
NEVER TALK TO STRANGERS
THE NEW DAUGHTER
THE NEW GUY
NEW IN TOWN
NEW JERSEY DRIVE
New Kids Nitro
NEW KIDS: TURBO!
NEW MOON: THE TWILIGHT SAGA
NEW POLICE STORY
NEW ROSE HOTEL
THE NEW SWISS FAMILY ROBINSON
THE NEW WORLD
New Year's Eve
NEW YORK MINUTE
NEW YORK, I LOVE YOU
NEW YORK, IMAGES FROM THE EDGE
The Newsroom
THE NEWTON BOYS
NEXT
THE NEXT BEST THING
Next Goal Wins
NEXT STOP WONDERLAND
THE NEXT THREE DAYS
Next to Her
The Nice Guys
Nick
NICK OF TIME
NID DE GUÊPES/THE NEST
NIET ZONDER JOU
DE NIETSNUT
DE NIEUWE AVONTUREN VAN HET MOLLETJE
Nieuwe helden
DE NIEUWE MOEDER
Nieuwe tieten
De nieuwe wildernis
NIGHT AND THE CITY
NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM
NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM: BATTLE OF THE SMITHSONIAN
Night at the Museum: Secret Of The Tomb
A NIGHT AT THE ROXBURY
The Night Before
NIGHT FALLS ON MANHATTAN
NIGHT MAIL
Night Moves
Night of 1000 Hours
THE NIGHT OF THE HUNTER
NIGHT TRAIN (Previously Unreleased)
Night Train to Lisbon
NIGHT WATCH (NOCHNOI DOZOR)
THE NIGHT WE NEVER MET
A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET
NIGHTS IN RODANTHE
NIGHTWATCH
NIGHTWATCHING
Nijntje de film
Niko 2: Familiezaken
NIKO EN DE VLIEGENDE BRIGADE
NIL BY MOUTH
NIMA TEMBA SHERPA
Nina
LA NIÑA SANTA
NINA TAKES A LOVER
NINE
NINE MONTHS
NINE QUEENS (NUEVE REINAS)
NINJA ASSASSIN
Ninja Turtles
Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows
NINOTCHKA
THE NINTH GATE
NIRGENDWO IN AFRIKA
NIXON
NO
NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN
No Escape
NO ET MOI
NO GOOD DEED
NO MAN'S LAND
NO MORE HEROES-DVD BOX
NO ONE KNOWS ABOUT PERSIAN CATS
No Place for a Rebel
NO RESERVATIONS
NO STRINGS ATTACHED
NO TRAINS NO PLANES
NO WAY HOME
Noah
De Nobelprijswinnaar
NOBODY KNOWS
NOBODY'S FOOL
Noces (Stephan Streker over)
LA NOCHE DE LOS GIRASOLES
Una noche sin luna (Previously Unreleased)
Nocturama (Bertrand Bonello over) (Previously Unreleased)
Nocturnal Animals
NÓI ALBINÓI
Noi credevamo
Noma — My Perfect Storm
NOMAD
NÖMADAK TX
Nono, het zigzagkind
De noodkreet in de fles
NOORD-KOREA, EEN DAG UIT HET LEVEN
NOOSE
NORBIT
NORD
Nordvest (Slow Criticism)
NORDWAND
NORMAAL — IK KOM ALTIED WEER TERUG
NORMAL LIFE
NORMAN JEAN AND MARILYN
NORTH
NORTH BY NORTHWEST
NORTH COUNTRY
NORTHFORK
Northwest
NORWEGIAN WOOD
NOSFERATU
LA NOSTRA VITA
NOSTRADAMUS
I nostri ragazzi (Het Diner)
NOT ANOTHER TEEN MOVIE
NOT ONE LESS (YI GE DOU BU NENG SHAO)
NOTEBOEK
THE NOTEBOOK
De Notenkraak
NOTES ON A SCANDAL
NOTHING PERSONAL
NOTHING TO LOSE
Notre jour viendra
Notre paradis
LA NOTTE
NOTTING HILL
NOU, DAT WAS HET DAN?
Le nouveau
Une nouvelle amie
Nova Zembla
The November Man
La novia del desierto
NOW AND THEN
Now You See Me
Now You See Me 2
Now, Forager: A Film About Love & Fungi (Slow Criticism)
NOWHERE
NOWHERE BOY
NSU: German History X
NUAGES. LETTRES À MON FILS
NUE PROPRIÉTÉ
LES NUITS FAUVES
THE NUMBER 23
NUOVOMONDO
NURSE BETTY
THE NUTTY PROFESSOR
THE NUTTY PROFESSOR II: THE KLUMPS
Nymphomaniac
NYNKE