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:: Open Hearts

Open Hearts, the latest Dogma film to come out of Europe was created by producers of Dancer in the Dark and from new feature director Susanne Bier.

It is the story of two families living in Copenhagen; a young couple and a family of five leading completely separate lives, whose paths are unlikely to cross. That is until one fateful day their worlds collide, literally, when Marie (Paprika Steen) arguing with her daughter Stine (Stine Bjerregaard), crashes their car into Joachim (Nikolaj Lie Kaas). Joachim, in that one instant, goes from being a young outgoing man about to head away for a boys’ weekend in the mountains, to facing the rest of his days in a wheelchair. Cecille (Sonja Richter), recently engaged to Joachim, also finds that within moments, her life and her future have become unrecognisable.

Marie’s husband Niels (Mads Mikkelsen), a doctor at the hospital where Joachim is rushed to, introduces himself to Cecille in the waiting room and offers his family’s support, the only thing he feels able to do in the circumstances. Initially Niels and his family seem like the last people on earth to whom Cecille would turn, given that they have inadvertently placed her in this desperate situation. However Joachim, in his grief at the reality of his future, takes all his resentment and frustration out on Celeste and Cecille bewildered and alone, finds herself accepting Niels offer of support.

Initially all Celeste seeks from Niels is medical advice, but as Joachim’s outlook on life and attitude toward her does not improve, she increasingly turns to Niels for emotional support. Marie, racked with guilt at a situation she has had a hand in creating, encourages Niels to go to Celeste whenever she needs him. What starts off as innocent friendship during a time of grief, the relationship between Celeste and Niels becomes increasingly complicated when Niels finds himself drawn to her from more than just a feeling of sympathy and she does not discourage it.

An exploration of themes of love and loss, guilt and obligation, fate and the future, Open Hearts is a beautifully executed, devastatingly realistic portrayal of human interaction in times of desperate emotion.