Judge Josh Rode needs to be delivered from the evil of Oreos...before it's too late.
Vengeance has a price.
The cover of Deliver Us From Evil makes it look like a psychotic slasher flick, but thankfully it is not. Nor is it really about xenophobia, as its IMDb blurb claims. It is, as director Ole Bornedal says several times in the featurettes, about the little spark of evil that resides in everyone, especially when they've had a bit too much to drink.
Facts of the Case
Truck driver Lars (Jens Andersen, Polle Fiction) is trying to figure out how to fix his terminally messed up life. Unfortunately, the way he goes about it is to drink heavily while driving his rig. A momentary lapse of concentration leads to a collision with a motorcycle and ignites a flame that will engulf the tiny village of Baekmarksbro, Demark.
Deliver Us From Evil is not a slasher flick, but make no mistake: it is raw and often brutal. It makes no bones about showing abuse, beatings, murder, and rape, and all of it in gritty (though not gratuitous) detail. Idealistic Pernille (Norwegian pop star Lene Nystrøm) tells her children early on, "There are no evil people. Only people in need of love." The rest of the film seems hell-bent on proving her wrong.
The list begins with the aforementioned Lars, a drunken lout who shows his love to his pregnant girlfriend by calling her a whore and hitting her, then he tries to shovel his biggest mistake onto someone else. Ingvar (Mogens Pedersen, Drabet) is a former Major who seems to be a pillar of integrity until the death of his wife sends him over the edge of reason. The rest of the town follows his lead through a drunken haze that strips away all reason. Even hard-working, almost childish foreigner Alain (Bojan Navojec, Just Between Us) has a secret, albeit one that is more cowardly than truly evil.
Then there is Pernille's husband Johannes (Danish DJ and comedian Lasse Rimmer). He is successful and well-to-do…and more interested in his phone than in his family. He seems a bit passive until his house is under attack, at which point he comes alive, running back and forth with a butcher knife, a nail gun and a Molotov cocktail made from a wedding present and having the time of his life. "You're enjoying this," Pernille tells him. "You're an animal, just like them."
The only pure character is Ingvar's loving wife Anna (Lone Lindorff, Superbror), who spends her time comforting her husband during his flashbacks and putting prayer leaflets in hymn books. Given the theme of the film, perhaps she only escapes having her own inner evil revealed because she dies very early on, a trade-off that seems more than equitable after the events that follow.
The acting is good across the board. Anderson, especially, stands out through the first three-quarters of the film. His spastic performance makes everyone else seem staid by comparison. Nystrøm does a nice job as well, especially considering she's a musician, not an actress. Her Pernille is completely natural, a good mother and wife who hates the dinky town to which she's been dragged, and who longs for a spark of feeling in her distant husband.
Deliver Us From Evil is set in a poor Danish town in the middle of nowhere and the feeling of small town hopelessness is so prevalent it almost becomes a character itself. Even the colors are faded, as if washed out by the weariness of existence. It's a strong effect, although it hinders some of the imagery possibilities; when Pernille stares with foreboding at spilled red wine, for instance, the muted color doesn't carry the same impact that a brighter tone would have.
Other than that, the picture is reasonably clean and sharp. The sound mixing is also nicely done, and I love the minimalist soundtrack. When there is music, it does a good job of fitting the scene and ramping up the emotion; only once does it spill over the top and become intrusive. Even better, Bornedal lets a lot of the film speak for itself without music, to great effect. The rape scene has only birdsong as its score, and is all the more unsettling for it.
The extras include a "making of" featurette, which talks mostly about small-town Denmark and how difficult it was for Bornedal to live there. There are also interviews with the main actors as they break down their characters. Then there is a trailer and "The Theme," which is just Bornedal talking about how everyone has evil somewhere inside them.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Deliver Us From Evil starts and ends with a narrator. She introduces the location and the characters and tells us a little about each, then adds an epitaph at the end. In other words, there is no need for her whatsoever; everything she says becomes clear in context and thus becomes redundant information. Her unnecessary epitaph is especially off-putting since it seems a betrayal of some of the characters, but that's more about the writing than it is about her.
Also, a question: where were the police in all of this, and what is everyone's aversion to calling them? The police force apparently consists of only two men who do little but hang out together and are easily fooled and…hmm…I guess that question answered itself.
Finally, there are some loose ends left hanging; we don't find out what happens to many of the secondary characters, notably Ingvar and Alain.
Deliver Us From Evil is a rather pessimistic study of the human condition, one in which no one escapes without a blemish. But it is interesting and engaging, along with being well written and acted. Go watch it.
Oh, and a word of advice to poor Scarlett (Pernille Vallentin, Just Like Home): Run, honey. He's not going to change.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: E1 Entertainment
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