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Den skaldede frisør

May 5, 2013
Den skaldede frisør

Some filmmakers produce light, pleasant bits of fluff, while others make heavy, serious, thoughtful pieces. And then some show talent on both sides. Danish writer/director Susanne Bier would seem to fall into this latter category as she follows up her 2011 Academy Award-winner Hævnen with Den skaldede frisør — subtitled in English as Love is All You Need. She and co-writer Anders Thomas Jensen present a story both sweet and slightly tart, with just enough salt to bring it all to life.

Some people have all the luck, but Ida (Trine Dyrholm) is not one of those people. She’s finishing chemotherapy as the movie starts, and cautiously optimistic. She tells her doctor she doesn’t need a breast reconstruction as her husband, Leif (Kim Bodnia) doesn’t mind, only to catch him showing more interest in those on his young accountant, Tilda (Christiane Schaumberg-Müller).

But Ida has no time to mourn; she’s off from Copenhagen to southern Italy, where her daughter, Astrid (Molly Blixt Egelind), is going to marry Patrick (Sebastian Jessen) in a villa on the grounds of a lemon grove owned by his widowed father, Philip (Pierce Brosnan). While parking at the airport she hits a car — Philip’s car, as it happens — and when the flight lands they’ve lost her bag.

And then we’re on to the villa for a few days leading up to the ceremony itself. Astrid and Patrick are frazzled after getting the place ready; Leif shows up with Tilda on his arm; Philip’s overbearing sister-in-law, Benedikte (Paprika Steen) nurses both a grudge against her sullen daughter and a crush on Philip. Well, it wouldn’t be a wedding if it went off without a hitch.

Bier is clearly just as comfortable with this comedy as she is with drama, and it may just be her dramatic inclinations that help Den skaldede frisør — “the bald hairdresser” — play so well. After all, the trees in Philip’s grove can and do produce both lemons and oranges. Ida suffers tragedies great and small with aplomb, though maybe not with as much assertiveness as she might. Meanwhile, Philip still refuses to tear down the wall he erected to deal with one tragedy twenty years past. For Bier and Jensen to bring these two opposites together may not be the most original way of examining a spectrum of responses, but it’s a well-worn path for a reason.

Aside from the story, though, southern Italy is gorgeous, and regular Bier cinematographer Morten Søborg makes the most of it, allowing Bier to tell her story as much with image and color as with words. Bright splashes of blue, green, and red pop in Copenhagen. A dusty, cozy path through a stand of citrus trees leads to a beautiful sea cliff. A mauve skyline fades into a warm, orange sunset over the peninsula to the west. And demure pinks grow into passionate reds before relaxing into sunny, happy lemon-yellows.

Worth It: yes.
Bechdel Test: fail.

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