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American Women's Club of Hamburg

This Life - Film Review

Häagen-Dazs Audience Prize: This Life

Review by Shelly S. 

I hadn’t given much thought to, nor could I answer the question: on which side were the Scandinavian countries in WW2? I did know that Sweden was neutral. Now I know that Finland was fighting with Russia, while Norway and Denmark were occupied. Also that most of the Jewish population in Denmark were never put in any concentration camps.

Director Anne-Grethe Bjarup Riis’ debut film dives into this Danish perspective and tells a story based on true events. The film opens with a Silver Wedding Anniversary where everything is being elaborately decorated for the guests by Gudrun and Marius Fill who run the local inn; obviously, they both are hard working and well liked. Everyone from this small village in east Jutland attends the celebration with much enthusiasm. It’s clear from this scene that there are tightly woven relationships and strong values. As they discuss the war and the idea of forming a resistance group, it is also clear that there are differences of opinion. At the same time, it is understood that everyone accepts the other’s opinion and will not interfere. So the Hvidsten group is formed. Due to their strategically geographical position, they can easily receive supplies and agents who were air-dropped from England. In 1943 they begin this process but things take an unfortunate turn for their operation.

Formerly, director Bjarup Riis was an actress and even worked with Lars von Trier. She calls upon her acting experience to guide all of the characters. The cast is large for a debut film; she really pulled it off where the characters have depth and remain real. The story doesn’t turn into a melodramatic soap opera which it had a strong potential of becoming.The film won the Häagen-Dazs Publikumspreis at the festival and is definitely worth seeing.

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