A War is a 2015 Danish war drama written and directed by Tobias Lindholm. Lindholm was a writer on the popular TV drama Borgen and as the driving force behind A War, he’s taken his career to new heights. The film was nominated for the ‘Best Foreign Language Film’ Oscar at the 88th Academy Awards and tells a compelling story about family and conflict.
The struggle at home, rather than being an afterthought or feeling like a supplementary sideplot, holds up just as well as the early stages of the film in which Claus is deployed in Afghanistan.
Pilou Asbæk, (Lucy, Ben Hur,) stars as Claus Michael Pedersen, a Danish officer deployed on operations in Afghanistan. The early stages of the film see him lose a young soldier under his command to an IED (improvised explosive device), which leaves Claus and the other members of his company disturbed and unsettled. His deployment in Afghanistan is contrasted with his wife’s experience at home as she looks after their three children, meanwhile their son Julius struggles with the absence of his father, leading to his acting up and a struggle to control him.
The struggle at home, rather than being an afterthought or feeling like a supplementary sideplot, holds up just as well as the early stages of the film in which Claus is deployed in Afghanistan. Afghan families under threat from the Taliban, who Claus’ company attempt to help and protect, offer a sharp contrast against the backdrop of Claus’s family. Despite their physical safety and relative luxury they experience their own struggles and are also portrayed as fragile.
The children caught up in the film’s struggles, both in Afghanistan and in Denmark, in many ways become the centrepieces of the film, despite Claus’ dominance of actual screen time. Without spoiling anything – when difficulties in Afghanistan lead to an early return home for Claus and complicated legal proceedings for his company, he is also reunited with his family. The result is an interesting coming together of Claus’ two, very different worlds; that of war-torn Afghanistan and that of the family who struggled so much without him.
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Overall, this film is memorable and important because it considers the contrasting roles of soldier and father in much more depth than other films that have tried to do so previously. In some cases elsewhere this humanising, family driven element of the story seems like a sideline, but not here. A War captures these issues in a very genuine, human way and ultimately leaves every character, without exception, looking in some way vulnerable. Despite how well it copes with real issues though the film dips its toes into several genres, portraying battle-action, procedural drama and family psychology with equal aptitude. A War is massively recommendable and really quite unique.
By George Storr