Den du Frygter (Fear Me Not) (Kristian Levring, 2008)
It would be possible to write an entirely accurate review of Fear Me Not in exactly eleven words. “Ulrich Thomsen. Paprika Steen. What more do you need to know?” Amazon, however, required reviewers to write at least twenty, so I might as well go whole hog and tell you more, for those of you (there may be a few out there) for whom Thomsen (Adam’s Apples) and Steen (Applause) are not automatic selling points.
The two of them play a married couple, Mikael and Sigrid. Mikael has taken a leave of absence from work for an undisclosed reason; we can reasonably assume it has to do with his anxiety and depression, which he attempts to hide from Sigrid and their daughter Selma (Magi I Luften‘s Emma Sehested Hoeg) as much as possible. (He doesn’t do a very good job of it, but the two of them are willfully blind to his condition, Sigrid more so.) One of the few routines he is still clinging to is rowing a few mornings a week with his friend and brother-in-law Frederik (Terribly Happy‘s Lars Brygman), a doctor whose hospital is about to start a trial of a new anti-anxiety medication. Mikael asks if he can get in on it; Frederik reluctantly agrees. At first, everything seems to be going swimmingly; Mikael becomes cheerful, connects with his family, starts talking about going back to work. But then, the changes start taking a darker turn.
A few months before I watched Fear Me Not, I watched Side Effects, the latest (as of this writing) film from Steven Soderbergh, which covers, at least in its first third, a very similar scenario. I was not terribly fond of Side Effects, though I did like that first bit some. Fear Me Not has shown me why I was dissatisfied with a good deal of it. Soderbergh used this idea, of a drug trial gone hideously wrong, as the springboard to something else, and he put very little thought into that part of the film as a result; Rooney Mara’s character went bonkers, and that set the scene for his real movie. Here, on the other hand, it is the real movie; this is what the press for Side Effects wanted you to believe it was, and Levring (The Intended) manages, with very little effort, to create a sense of palpable menace. Excellently-drawn characters working their way through a cracking script with a very mean heart. I say again: what more do you need to know? *** ½