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August 24, 2010

Arven (2004)
Director: Per Fly
Actors: Ulrich Thomsen, Lisa Werlinder, Ghita Norby

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Synopsis: Christoffer (Ulrich Thomsen) gives up his comfortable life and relationship in Sweden to return to his father’s problematic family business in Denmark.

Review: Arven is yet another addition to the pantheon of recent nauseating and hysterical Danish dramas (Forbrydelser and Brødre being notable others.) What marred those films – schematic scenarios worthy of only the most disposable of soap operas, replete with jarring and hyperbolic shifts in emotional tone – accounts for Arven as well. The whole dramatic premise is distinctly unconvincing, and the ‘dilemma’ that’s supposed to drive the narrative (Christoffer’s indecision between a life of conviviality and culture in Stockholm with his wife versus the stresses and strains of a high-flying corporate role in the family firm in Copenhagen) never rings true. Instead, the filmmakers seem intent on amplifying every instance where this dichotomy comes into play, when all that seems necessary is for Christoffer to live permanently in Stockholm and commute to Copenhagen for the majority of the working week?…

Ironically, the opening coda promises a much more stately and elliptical drama, with Christoffer roaming melancholically and evocatively through the streets of Stockholm before shifting back in time to the origins of his troubles five years earlier. Compare that icy and ethereal start with the farce of the last section, where Christoffer’s downfall is triggered by a series of risible, obligatory sequences such as ‘the drunken binge’, ‘the graceless ogling of the French maid’, and ‘the demonic trashing of a house and its possessions’. It’s Arven’s propensity to resort to cliché that makes its central journey an unmemorable one. (May 2008)

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