Sydney Film Festival Review: A Second Chance

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau in En Chance Til Photo: Rolf Konow

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau in En Chance Til
Photo: Rolf Konow

En Chance Til, or A Second Chance, is a gripping Danish drama by Academy Award-winning director Susanne Bier and screenwriter Anders Thomas Jensen that examines the fragility of the human condition in the face of tragedy.

Police officer and family man Andreas (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) lives a seemingly postcard-perfect life with his wife Anne (Maria Bonnevie) and their child, Alexander. After a devastating loss, Andreas makes a choice that causes his life to spiral out of control and shatters the lives of a blameless yet morally abhorrent couple. The film explores the consequences of the decisions that we make, regardless of their intentions.

Aesthetically the film is beautifully shot, yet subdued enough that it never distracts from the plot. The wintry Danish landscapes are captured in some stunning wide shots and the use of close-ups are effectively utilised to maintain the emotional intensity. Although the majority of the film is in Danish, by about a third of the way through I barely noticed I was reading subtitles; the powerful performances merged with the translation in a way that felt very organic, and I never felt I was compromising my attention on the visuals to comprehend the dialogue.

The contrasts between the two families are well conveyed through attention to details. The dark and chaotic filth in the house of the two junkies is well contrasted against Andreas and Anne’s immaculately decorated home, with its bright glass panels and open plan layout that create an illusion of ordered bliss. As in real life, it’s impossible to see the grim truths of reality when you are on the outside looking in.

The dexterous performances of the cast suspend disbelief for some of the more unrealistic parts of the plot; the decisions of the characters seem to be emotionally justified in the moment, due to the honesty and conviction of their portrayal. Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, best known for his role in Game of Thrones, is especially convincing in his role as Andreas. The audience feels the impact of the knife-like twists of the narrative through his character as we watch him grapple with the heavy-weighted emotions of betrayal, grief, guilt, and a glimpse of absolution.

A Second Chance seems to have polarised viewers and critics; many have criticised the fanciful plot, and yet I found myself entirely captivated. While some of the twists verge on the predictable, there were moments towards the end that were both unexpected and shocking. At times the intense exploration of moral reasoning borders on heavy-handedness but the film is ultimately redeemed by the depth of its performances.

A Second Chance screens at the Travelling Film Festival, Newcastle at 3.30pm on Saturday June 20.

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