The Inheritance (9/10)

by Tony Medley

Director (and co-writer with Kim Leona) Per Fly is in the process of making a trilogy about life in Denmark. His first, The Bench (2000), was about the lower class. The Inheritance (2003), which is about power and how it affects people and families, deals with the upper class.

Christoffer (Ulrich Thomsen) is married to Maria (Lisa Welinder), an up and coming actress, when his father, the owner of a steel mill, kills himself. Christoffer’s mother, Annelise (Ghita Norby) pressures him into returning to take over the close to bankrupt company that he had earlier abandoned, even though his brother-in-law, Ulrik (Lars Brygmann), has worked there for 15 years and would seem to be the heir apparent. To make Christoffer’s decision even crueler, Maria is up for a role that she’s dreamed about all her life. If she were to accompany him, she’d have to forego the role.

This is a brilliant, Ibsenesque, drama of a family involved in major business decisions, and a man who feels he must make enormous choices between what he might feel should be done as opposed to what he feels must be done. It’s an examination of the classic struggle men often have to make in choosing between wife and mother, duty and family, right and wrong. The film raises basic questions of morality without forcing an answer upon its audience. The acting is uniformly outstanding. Thomsen portrays a man too weak to stand up to his mother, but strong enough to execute difficult business decisions expertly. Welinder is captivating. How could any man even consider giving her up?

I thought it took a long time for this 1 hour-47 minute film to get into it, but once it did, it proceeds apace. There aren’t any laughs, no nudity, no profanity. This is just a heavy, starkly realistic drama that’s enormously engaging. I was exhausted when it was over, but I wouldn’t have missed it.  In Danish with subtitles.

October 16, 2004

The End