Vinterberg dives into social realism with Submarino
by Annika Pham
15/02/2010 - Promoted as Thomas Vinterberg’s comeback to the simple and realistic storytelling of his successful debut feature Celebration that propelled him to fame in 1998, Submarino [trailer, film focus], which screened yesterday in official competition at the Berlinale, is a dark social and family drama that provides little relief for viewers. Reaction from the international press was mixed to the Nimbus Film production sold internationally by TrustNordisk.
Submarino is a meticulous adaptation of a novel by Jonas T. Bengtsson, about two brothers who share a childhood trauma. Separated as adults, we follow their tragic destinies. Nick (Jakob Cedergren from Terribly Happy [trailer]) is an alcoholic who lives in a shelter, while his junkie brother (Peter Plaugborg) is raising his son Martin on his own.
Having reached the rock bottom of humanity, both are trying to come up for air. Nick by clinging to the hope of reconnecting with his brother, the latter through his love for his little boy.
“I wanted to tackle the topic of responsibility for little ones and parental guilt,” said Vinterberg at the press conference. “My aim was not to judge the characters but to investigate the frailty of human beings.”
The first part of Submarino portraying the brothers as adolescents left by their drunken mother to fend for themselves and improvise caring for their baby brother is a promising, interesting dramatic start that doesn’t quite find the same pathos and emotion in the rest of the film, despite solid performances from anti-heroes Cedergren and Plaugborg.
The film was produced by Nimbus outside the conventional support system from the Danish Film Institute. Danish broadcaster TV2 contributed to the financing under the condition that half of the cast and crew – including DoP Charlotte Bruus Christensen and first-time feature film writer Tobias Lindholm – would be novices.
These rules were a creative thrill for Vinterberg, who felt they contributed to making the film as pure as possible. “Over the last ten years I’ve tried many different filmmaking styles. With Submarino I felt I was back doing a graduation film. I’m now back to more straightforward storytelling,” he concluded.