Brotherhood -- Film Review

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ROME -- Danish director Nicolo Donato makes a memorable feature film debut with "Brotherhood," a film whose solid acting and sensitive direction keep it from being filed away as a gay neo-Nazi romance, in which events unfold exactly as one would expect. The film won Best Film kudos at the Rome Film Festival and has all the force of a high concept executed with conviction. The appeal of this love story between violently racist skinheads goes beyond gay audiences and should attract a a younger demographic, making it a very plausible choice for arthouse pick-ups.

Lars (Thure Lindhardt) is a smart, sensitive young army sergeant who has been passed over for promotion because he made drunken passes at some of his men. Caught between a castrating mother and non-assertive father, he finds company in a group of fist-happy skinheads, even if he's not on their ideological wavelength. The group leader (Nicholas Bro) singles Lars out as a straight talker with a talent for inventing propaganda slogans. He introduces him to their uber-fuhrer Ebbe (Claus Flygare), whose Hitler rants are as chilling as the gang's gay- and Muslim-bashing.

Strangely, for the gang, Lars resists being put on the fast track for "full group membership." As his attraction to the tough little Jimmy (David Dencik) develops, it becomes obvious why. In the film's opening scene, the gang (including Jimmy) lures a young man into a fake rendezvous and brutally beats him up, establishing an atmosphere of great danger and violence for anyone foolhardy enough to challenge the standard values.

The surprising thing is that Jimmy responds to Lar's attentions, and the careful, delicate way the love story is laid out shows great tact on the part of director Donato. Under his macho bluster, Jimmy has a loving concern for his messed-up junkie of a younger brother, Patrick (Morten Holst), protecting him in his most vulnerable moments. Dencik's complex portrayal of Jimmy prepares the terrain for his falling in love with an obscure object of desire, Lars.

The potentially explosive chemistry between the two men is ignited when they are assigned to fix up Ebbe's remote beach house. Alone, together. A nocturnal swim leads to the first bedroom scene, tastefully shot but protracted enough to be sensually disturbing.

As their sexual relationship turns into a love story, a lot of re-thinking goes on, but despite Lars' urging, Jimmy postpones leaving the gang. When the strung-out Patrick discovers them together, the die is cast for a brutal ending, but co-scripters Donato and Rasmus Birch decide to have it both ways.

The ambiguous, drawn-out finale is the only real misstep in an otherwise well-narrated film with few surprises. Most viewers will wish they just made up their minds how the story ends.

Venue: Rome Film Festival -- Competition

Production companies: Asta Film, Film i Vast
Cast: Thure Lindhardt, David Dencik, Nicolas Bro, Morten Holst, Claus Flygare, Hanne Hedelund, Lars Simonsen
Director: Nicolo Donato
Screenwriters: Rasmus Birch, Nicolo Donato
Producer: Per Holst
Executive producer: Tomas Eskilsson
Director of photography: Laust Trier Mork
Production designer: Thomas Ravn, Lars Ole Kofoed-Hansen
Music: Simon Brenting, Jesper Mechlenburg
Costume designer: Ole Kofoed
Editor: Bodil Kjaerhauge
Sales: TrustNordisk
No rating, 101 minutes
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