Since the Paleolithic Age bullying has been in vogue. There is a poisonous gene that dominates the psyche and behavior of the “bully”; it does not discriminate between gender; it has morphed in today’s sophisticated, highly developed technological world into a pristine, lethal art form aided by the internet (cyber-bullying).
Danish filmmaker Susanne Bier serves with masterful sensitivity and insight the various guises of bullying and how the victims or witnesses cope with the cruelty. “In a Better World” is brilliant in depicting the torture; mental, psychological and physical of children against their peers and dictators against their people. This study in the subtleties and disparate tools both children and adults adapt, to survive beyond the sins and pain visited upon them, is remarkable in grasping and interpreting the nuances of young and adult minds and sensibilities.
“In a Better World” glides flawlessly between a depressed, poverty-stricken refugee camp in Africa and a small town in Denmark. Mikael Persbrandt gives a majestic performance as Anton, a doctor trying to salvage the lives of women who have been brutally mutilated by a savage, impersonating a man; his son, ten year old Elias (Markus Rygaard) the fodder for school bullies, and estranged wife Marianne ( a succinct performance by Trine Dyrholm) live in Denmark, with the vicissitudes of Anton’s prolonged absences.
The movie’s hardened center, core is ten year old Christian (a genius performance by William Johnk Nielsen) who is transported from England to Denmark after the death of his mother. Intellectually gifted with a steely, assiduous resolve; vengeful, fearless cruelty masking a horribly wounded and lacerated soul. This is a performance for the ages.
There have been a plethora of films representing the empowerment of the sicker, stronger over the less entitled; the loner, frozen, unaccepted by the popular elite: “My Bodyguard”, “Carrie”, “Stand By Me”, “Mean Girls” , the highly acclaimed 2005 Swedish drama “As It Is In Heaven” starring Michael Nyqvist ( “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” trilogy); and a recent play “Sound” by Pomona Posse Scholar, Vince Morgan. All resonate with Robert Burns prophetic words of “man’s inhumanity to man, makes countless thousands mourn”. Hopefully, “In A Better World” heralds the dawning, the recognition of the seeds of meanness pervasive throughout history; the countless thousands who mourn must rectify, seek a cure for the contagious epidemic of “bullying” and rid the world of its insidiousness.