Saturday, January 10, 2009

Flame and Citroen

That WWII still has many untold stories to tell can be gleaned from films as diverse as the recent Austrian Oscar-winner Die Fälscher (The Counterfeiters), about an enormous German counterfeiting operation set up concentration camp labour; the French biographical drama Un secret (A Secret), about a man's illusions about his parents' idyllic past, and the Dutch Oscar-shortlisted Zwartboek (Black Book), about the infinite shades of gray in the Dutch resistance movement. A new film from Denmark, Ole Christian Madsen's Flammen & Citronen (Flame & Citron), can now be added to the list. The film concentrates on a WWII resistance movement that became increasingly more questionable as some of its members became more ruthless. Flammen & Citronen stars local chameleon Thure Lindhardt and Casino Royale bad guy Mads Mikkelsen as the titular resistance fighters and premiered in Denmark on Friday.

Flammen & Citronen (the names are references to the characters' orange hair and Citroën connections respectively) is an enormous international co-production involving 23 parties in all, with besides Danish partners also German, Czech Republic and Norway. At over €6.5 million, the film's budget is one of Scandinavia's largest budgets ever.

The film is directed by Ole Christian Madsen, whose previous film was the intimate marital drama Prag (Prague), which also starred Mads Mikkelsen. Perhaps tellingly, his new film was co-written by the special effects supervisor-turned-screenwriter Lars Andersen, a collaboration that echoes another collaboration on a European epic that told a war story, Hungary's Szabadság, szerelem (Children of Glory). That film, a splash hit in its home country and a modest hit abroad, was directed by romantic comedy director Krisztina Goda but the spectacular action sequences were directed by UK stunt coordinator and 2nd unit director Vic Armstrong.

Though set in Copenhagen -- where the real "Flame" and "Citron" liquidated Danish and German informers for the resistance -- the film was mainly shot in Germany and the Czech Republic. Besides Lindhardt and Mikkelsen, the film also stars Stine Stengade, the real-life companion of the director who also starred opposite Mikkelsen in Prag, and a battery of German actors as the occupying Nazis, wit the most noteworthy name being Christian Berkel, who also starred in the aforementioned Zwartboek and Der Untergang (Downfall), which told the story of the last days of Hitler through the eyes of his secretary.

There is another connection to the Oliver Hirschbiegel-directed Der Untergang: both films only become possible recently after people who lived through the events finally went on record about what had exactly happened. Though Der Untergang was generally well-received, director Ole Christian Madsen has apparently set himself up for something more revisionist. At least, if the frequent use of the word "terrorism" in the press materials is anything to go by.

No comments: