Truth About Men (Sandheden om maend): Taormina Film Festival Film Review

  A movie writer’s life gets a clever re-write

Clearly an autobiographical endeavor for Danish writer-director Nikolaj Arcel, Truth About Men is a lively comedy about a script writer with commitment issues

 

TAORMINA — A thirtyish screenwriter with major commitment issues tries to plot out his own existence in Truth About Men(Sandheden om maend), a lively and well-crafted Danish comedy from writer-director Nikolaj Arcel. With a solid lead turn from Thure Lindhardt (The Island) and enough twists to keep the pace, Arcel steers a steady narrative despite his rather uninspired suggestion that life’s toughest choices are best tackled by literally sticking to the script. Though this is predominantly local fare, it’s got enough perks to find takers beyond Scandinavia.

Clearly an autobiographical endeavor for Arcel, who, like talented scribe Mads (Lindhardt), penned a highly successful kids movie before working in television (and then writing hits like the Swedish version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), the film opens with Mads fretting about settling down with long-time girlfriend, Marie (Tuva Novotny), whom he soon dumps in the hopes of finding something better.

But what that is remains extremely unclear, especially for Mads, who quits his TV gig to draft an impossible auteur film, and tries to wing it on the dating scene before being swept away by an artsy vixen (Rosalinde Mynster).Looking for happiness amid countless girls, parties and sexcapades, Mads grows ever more desperate as he spirals towards a full-blown crisis, his only salvation being the one thing he does well: cooking up screenplays.

The concept of a tortured writer seeking inspiration, sex, and perhaps a bit of love has been done countless times before, especially in comedy (see at least a quarter of Woody Allen’s oeuvre), but what Arcel and regular co-scribe Rasmus Heisterbergbring to the table is a character who’s worked on so many formulaic shows that he knows every plot point by heart.

The question is whether they all add up to something, and this is where Truth About Menperhaps falls short: By relying on a clever yet gimmicky five-point meta-structure (aided by on-screen illustrations) to guide Mads’ decisions, it gets too buried in the teachings of screenwriting gurus Syd Field and Robert McKee to find its way to genuine emotions, or to any “truths” beyond what’s expected from a movie about a guy with writer’s block and girl problems.

Still, Arcel manages to keep things fast and entertaining, jumping between jokes, moods and scenes in an energetic style previously seen in his 2004 political thriller, King’s Game. Working again with cinematographer Rasmus Videbaek, he creates an array of cool widescreen visuals, punctuated by ironic set-pieces showcasing clips from the various hits and flops in Mads’ filmography.

Cast is on point, with the talented Lindhardt once again showing that beyond his work as a baddie in blockbusters like Angels & Demons, he can hold a movie on his own.

 

Venue: Taormina Film Festival

Production companies: Zentropa Entertainments

Cast: Thure Lindhardt, Tuva Novotny, Rosalinde Mynster, Signe Eghholm Olsen, Henning Valin

Director: Nikolaj Arcel

Screenwriters: Nikolaj Arcel, Rasmus Heisterberg

Producers: Meta Louise Foldager, Louise Vesth

Executive producer: Peter Aalbaek Jensen

Director of photography: Rasmus Videbaek

Production designer: Thomas Bremer

Music: Asger Baden, Steen Holbek

Costume designer: Manon Rasmussen

Editor: Mikkel E.G. Nielsen

Sales: TrustNordisk

No rating, 92 minutes

 

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