Monkey Reviews

Through the Eyes of A Chimp

Monkey Reviews
Sunday, December 18, 2011
Screen Shot 2011-12-18 at 7.06.46 PM
From the Jungle to a Better Place… Chimp

In a “perfect” world we would have no war, no violence, no hatred and everyone would get along … right? And the list goes on. “In a Better World”, which won best foreign film last year, life is anything but perfect but it’s not for lack of trying. IMDB gives this brief synopsis (I’ve left out some of the summary as some of it gives too much away):

Anton is a doctor who commutes between his home in an idyllic town in Denmark, and his work at an African refugee camp. In these two very different worlds, he and his family are faced with conflicts that lead them to difficult choices between revenge and forgiveness…. (IMDB)

Every main character in this movie is in some way struggling to make their world a better place whether it’s on the school grounds, in a fledgling marriage, between father and son, dealing with loss and grief and across the world in war-torn Africa. And every character feels the weight of that burden in their own way.

This isn’t the first Danish movie to delve into these deeper issues. There is a solemnity to their style and approach and the stories they tell are often honest, taking seriously the faith perspective as it grapples with forgiveness.

The main plot line jumps back and forth between Africa and Denmark and while on the surface the two places seem worlds’ apart there is a mirroring that goes on. In Africa, brutality and savagery, a daily occurrence, is not hidden as it is in Denmark, characterized by some as a “polite and sophisticated law-abiding society”.

Where in Africa, conflicts are dealt with in a very tribal way with machete and machine gun, Denmark masks its desire for vengeance through smiles and words, keeping this desire locked up tight behind closed doors; and plans for pay-back gestate in the imaginations of those who carry much fear and sadness.

But both places share one thing: villains and bullies are something to contend with if justice can show its’ face. The question that presents itself is just exactly what does it mean to establish justice. Some methods are more reasoned, some not so much and this is the very thing that makes this movie so meaningful. No Hollywood endings here but the “feel-good” that does occur is in the evolution of the characters, the authentic look at choices and outcomes seem just right. The world portrayed in this movie may not be perfect but maybe the maker of this film is getting us to think and feel the idea that “a better world” is possible, despite the conflicts we run into on a daily basis – conflicts that are internal as well as “big-picture” external. What makes it better just might mean forgiveness, acceptance and souls being mended through love – not easy and not even perfect but surely better.

Some of what I loved in this movie was the reoccurring image of the African children who, with much joy and laughter, run after the doctor as he leaves the camp in his jeep. They seem to know when they’ve encountered someone who wants that better world and in their child-like hearts, they have been touched by justice.