“Wildland” – Not really [MOVIE REVIEW]

Sandra Guldberg Kampp as Ida, Elliott Crosset Hove as David, Besir Zeciri as Mads, Sidse Babett Knudsen as Bodil, and Joachim Fjelstrup as Jonas in "Wildland." Photo courtesy of Film Movement.

Sandra Guldberg Kampp as Ida, Elliott Crosset Hove as David, Besir Zeciri as Mads, Sidse Babett Knudsen as Bodil, and Joachim Fjelstrup as Jonas in “Wildland.” Photo courtesy of Film Movement.

“Wildland,” the curiously disturbing film that is ultimately disappointing on a massive scale was directed by Jeanette Nordahl and written by Ingeborg Topsøe. Neither seem to understand the concept of basic structure and plot.

Briefly, teenage Ida has just been orphaned and sent by social services to live with her only relative, Aunt Bodil. Ida has reservations, justifiable as we will soon find out, because although her aunt is nice to her, there’s something sinister about her three grown sons who are constantly around. Mads is what would be politely called “limited;” David is volatile and unstable, floating in and out at will; and Jonas is downright scary. Bodil, it turns out, runs a criminal loansharking enterprise and the “boys” are her enforcers. She wastes no time cheerfully forcing Ida into the family business.

So far so good. Atmosphere is established and character is set up. Now for the plot…there really isn’t one. Certainly there are the dysfunctional family dynamics and the criminal activities; tension literally crackles in the air. An enforcement goes wrong; very wrong. Then…nothing.

“Wildland” is like a two act play without a second act. In joke structure this is the equivalent of a set-up without a punchline. The disappointment is all the greater because of the anticipation that yields nothing in the end.

More’s the pity because it is a chance to see the marvelous Sidse Babett Knudsen (“Borgen”) in action as Bodil. She is nothing short of marvelous in her portrayal of the Danish equivalent of Ma Barker. But therein lies the problem; in the end her performance amounts to little more than an Actor’s Studio exercise—a good one, but just an exercise. Joachim Fjelstrup as Jonas has the most fleshed out role as the leader of his two brothers and he excels. Sandra Guldberg Kampp as Ida is quite good but mostly she goes around in the kind of daze that screams “What am I doing here?”

I rarely recommend that a film be longer, but at an hour and a half perhaps the filmmakers could have used another 30 minutes and expanded their “idea” into an actual plot. Godard famously said, “A story should have a beginning, a middle and an end, but not necessarily in that order.” “Wildland” has a beginning and a middle; there is no end. Don’t waste your time, even 90 minutes is too precious to waste.

Opening August 20 on Film Movement

 

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