It is time we all started to pay a closer look to European movies and politely elude the American blockbusters and the ever-invading Tinseltown film industry. And what better choice than Denmark, the world's happiest country, according to recent studies. One of its most remarkable directors is Thomas Vinterberg, Dogme's co founder and impressive voice and Submarino (2010) is a spectacular testimony of his great talent.
Happy and content as it may be in the eyes of the less fortune European countries, Viterberg's Denmark is gloomy and cold, painted in pale blue and cool colours, resonating with the main characters' harsh lives and short-lived happiness. Nick (Jakob Cedergren) and his young brother have become estranged after a traumatic episode in their unhappy childhood, marked by an abusive, alcoholic mother. Years later, Nick has just been released from prison and spends his days training and drinking himself into oblivion. Living in a poor hostel, every now and then, he indulges in the sexual pleasure offered by his prostitute neighbour, Sofie, the one who gets killed by Ivan, Nick's former girlfriend's deranged brother. Nick takes the blame and ends up in jail, where he is shortly reunited with his brother. Only referred to as Nick's brother or Martin's father, his brother (Peter Plaugborg) has been having a hard time trying to raise a son and fund his consuming heroine addiction. Their final reunion has a redeeming effect on both of them and to Nick, his brother's warm words of absolution are premonitory.
The title refers to a method of torture known as ‘submarino’ in which the person’s head is held under water to just before the point of drowning. Life is like a submarine for the two brothers -harsh and merciless, full of abuse, addiction and lacking perspectives.The movie is a bleak social drama with a well-built structure and incredible performances.There are some gripping moments in the movie that simply touch your heart in the most unexpected ways; the dreamlike christening scene of their baby brother signifies the childhood innocence crushed by the hardships of adulthood. The death of the infant due to lack of adult supervision is an ordeal that will shape the unfortunate fates of the two brothers and eventually lead them to hit bottom, depriving them of their chance to a decent existence.
The chronologically mixed structure of the movie, divided in two distinctive parts, adds up to the intensity of the emotional message but, despite the tragedy of the two brothers, the ending seems to cast a ray of optimism on the future of the little boy, Martin, who is about to break the circle of abuse. The performances are convincing throughout the movie, especially that of Nick, whose devastated soul is hidden under his muscular and tattooed body; they are challenging to the point of making the viewer both angry and full of sympathy towards the characters' actions. Submarino is a sensitive display of the director's eye for cumulative, strong storytelling, the soul-touching acting and the glimmer of hope that will deliver the lost souls from desperate, damaged lives.