WWII Film Review – Flame and Citron (Flamen & Citronen, 2008)

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Here’s a film that’s a well-made story of two friends, close friends, who happen to also be Danish resistance fighters in WWII. Flame & Citron (in Danish, Flamen & Citronen) are the code-names of the two main characters who are actual historical people. These men, each struggling with the turmoil of war – but each in a different, private manner – are devoted to one another and to their cause.

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This is a well-made film about the Danish plight in a Nazi-occupied home-land. The craft-work is very well done, the skill of director Ole Christian Madsen is top-notch. I appreciate any period film that skillfully takes me back to a particular historical setting and makes it so believable I don’t even notice. The notice comes later, after the scene passes. I have a that notion overtakes me that says in my mind “wow, that was pretty fantastic… so THAT’S how a cafe in Denmark should look.” It’s all in the details of good set design and research. Bravo to the production crew.

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One peeve I have about period films is the tendency to style them in the modern fashion. This was particularly common in the later ‘70s and early ‘80s when any 1940s actor had big and puffy1970s hair. This film successfully avoids such bad film making pitfalls. That’s important to me. Indeed, the styles worn by the characters are perfectly ‘forties’ and have that classic and enduring masculine class. We who wear ties and suits could all learn a thing or two from these guys. I’d love that dark red tie and overcoat combo worn by Bent in this film. Citronen sports what should be a sophisticated ‘Atticus Finch’ appeal, but because the man sleeps in cars and bars, his hat and lack of access to a shower and razor tend to make of him a more brooding, dark and menacing character. He’s really the soft one, in the end.

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The friend aspect of the plot cannot be short-changed. This is a film about devotion, especially when the two assassins are faced with the possibility that they have been killing the wrong people. The two characters discover, through one tragic pain after the next, that they are all the other has. No one can be trusted. There are some very skillful manipulations captured here that sweep the viewer away in the deceiver’s plot quite readily. And its quite unsettling to discover that you have been taken for a ride. We film viewers are supposed to be the all-seeing, all-knowing third party, after all.

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Even when there is a powerful conflict and disagreement, these two friends manage to hold their friendship together skillfully. Flame, sadly, is caught up in the most blatant web of deceit and deception – he lives the intense drama of a patriot wrapped up in the dark and faithless world of duplicitous allegiance. He pays dearly.

Citronen pays too, perhaps with an even greater loss, and the heart of a father is evident in him, despite his flawed and misguided priorities. He places nation and mission before family, which is always a recipe for sorrow. Family first. Always.

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This is a moving film, one that has several intensely emotional scenes of moving heart-power or gut-churning angst. I enjoyed this for the drama, but also for the well-made craft of telling a story the right way.

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The film has some pretty bold war-inspired violence. These two characters execute Nazi collaborators in cold blood, after all. It has some sexual scenes that, though technically void of the nudie-parts that get R ratings, have the motion and sound that communicates the intended act (I recall two such scenes which – if the film maker could think outside the box a bit, these scenes could be far better implied than crassly shown). Language can be frank and crude at times, for us English speakers watching, its all subtitled. Overall the film is no more crude or brutal than any other WWII film, and is a very strong drama with many twists and unforeseen turns. I enjoyed it, a good suspense-filled drama.

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