Novelists and filmmakers are essentially puppeteers toying with the human psyche. In Reconstruction, Danish director Christoffer Boe brandishes his absolute power to control the characters populating this fanciful saga about the agony of love.
The film -- playing at 4 p.m. on January 29 and 30 as part of the Savoy Theater's World Cinema Series -- offers a brain-twisting puzzle. The people on screen seem to dwell in parallel universes, but it is Boe's rearrangement of them that counts as the story unfolds with the kind of spare Dogma-like production values popular in Scandinavia.
"Watch him," an unidentified narrator instructs us when Alex (Nikolaj Lie Kaas) comes into view during the opening sequence of the 105-minute picture. We have little choice, of course, and audiences are usually eager to be manipulated.
One evening in Copenhagen, Alex abruptly ditches his attractive girlfriend Simone (Maria Bonnevie) to stalk a ravishingly beautiful blonde stranger. Or have they somehow already met in another dimension? She is Aimee (Bonnevie again, providing a playful identity twist), the wife of a successful and rather depressed older author named August (Krister Henriksson).
It might be his voice narrating; the book he's writing has a plot that sounds suspiciously like the romantic betrayal occurring on screen. Viewers must keep track of a tale that fiddles with chronology because, along the way, Boe presents these lost souls in several possible versions of the truth.
When Alex and Aimee indulge in one night of passion, the punishment is swift. His world turns upside down the next day. Nobody recognizes him, not even Simone. His apartment has simply disappeared, leaving only a small door reminiscent of that Being John Malkovich portal into the actor's head.
Nonetheless, Alex is willing to risk everything to live happily ever after with this potential new partner. Or is he?
Kaas has a handsomely craggy face that seems to reflect many dark recesses in his character's complex persona. Watch him, indeed. Reconstruction exposes the duality within, even as it acknowledges how fickle fate can be.
The Savoy series continues each weekend afternoon next month:
- Feb. 5 & 6: Distant, about two Turkish cousins who approach life differently and have trouble getting along with each other.
- Feb. 12 & 13: Mike Leigh's acclaimed Vera Drake, which follows the shifting fortunes of a London matron who performs abortions in the early 1950s.
- Feb. 19 & 20: Almost Peaceful, a French saga about people who have survived the Holocaust and struggle to readjust in 1946 Paris.
- Feb. 26 & 27: Fear and Trembling, which centers on the cultural clashes encountered by a young Belgian woman trying to blend in at a large corporation in Tokyo.
The recently concluded second annual MountainTop Film Festival in Waitsfield got a little plug in last week's New York Times. The Wednesday arts-section interview with Jeremy Gilley mentioned that he had brought his documentary, Peace One Day, to Vermont -- the January 8 screening was a U.S. premiere.
The British director's film traces his five-year effort to convince the United Nations to seek a temporary global ceasefire by declaring an International Day of Peace, to be marked each September 21.
Although his doc was turned down by Utah's Sundance fest -- now in progress -- and has yet to find a distributor, Gilley is already planning a sequel.
So are Claudia Becker, director of the human rights-themed Mountain-Top event, and her colleague Kimberly Ead. "We made enough money to continue next year," Ead reports. "This has really become a self-sustaining proposition. People came from all over the state, and we got a lot of the skiers. There's not much else to do in the Mad River Valley."
A January 11 Boys of Sudan screening raised $700 for the state's refugee resettlement program. "This is truly a community-building festival and an opportunity for networking," Ead says.
The Times article points out that Gilley was at the UN on behalf of his project the morning of September 11, 2001. Given that awful day and the wars that have ensued, peace now seems like a distant dream. But, dreamer that he is, Gilley's still trying.