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ReFocus: The Films of Susanne Bier$
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Missy Molloy, Mimi Nielsen, and Meryl Shriver-Rice

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9781474428729

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: January 2019

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9781474428729.001.0001

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Storytelling Schemes, Realism, and Ambiguity: Susanne Bier’s Danish Dramas

Storytelling Schemes, Realism, and Ambiguity: Susanne Bier’s Danish Dramas

(p.19) Chapter 1 Storytelling Schemes, Realism, and Ambiguity: Susanne Bier’s Danish Dramas
ReFocus: The Films of Susanne Bier

Birger Langkjær

Edinburgh University Press

This chapter connects Bier’s approach to genre with Danish cinema’s gradual shift, apparent since the 1990s, from realism and folk comedy to mainstream genres with greater international appeals. Author Birger Langkjær suggests that Bier’s romantic comedies and dramas evidence this broader shift, which he locates in a preference for ‘tight narrative structures’ observable in Danish cinema during the last several decades. Langkjær narrows his focus to Bier’s dramas, including Open Hearts (Elsker dig for evigt 2002), Brothers (Brødre 2004), After the Wedding (Efter brylluppet 2006), and In a Better World (Hævnen 2010), which have attracted significant international attention and praise, while also provoking criticism, particularly of their melodramatic and/or ‘schematic’ properties. Langkjær scrutinizes such criticism by examining the narrative structures of Bier’s dramas and proposing art cinema and realism as genres better suited to illuminating how Bier’s dramas function. He specifically highlights the tension between ‘the macro-structures of melodramatic story-telling and film realism’ and the films’ evocations of ‘a psychological intimacy with [their] characters and the trivialities’ of their everyday lives. It is precisely this tension, he concludes, that distinguishes Bier’s dramas from traditional Danish realism and the formulas conventionally associated with melodrama.

Keywords:   Susanne Bier, Danish cinema, Realism, Genre, Melodrama

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