- Land of mine by Martin Zandvliet (director and screenwriter), and Mikael Rieks (producer)
Telling a compelling story about a person’s development is one thing. Recreating history and truly placing us in the middle of it is something else entirely. And it is still something else to dare challenge the Danish national spirit where it hurts. Martin Zandvliet’s Land of Mine deftly accomplishes all three with its almost unbearably intense story of teenage German soldiers forced to remove mines along the west coast of Jutland after the Second World War. It is impossible to view Land of Mine without reflecting on one’s view of human nature and one’s national sentiments.
- The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki by Juho Kuosmanen (director and screenwriter), Mikko Myllylahti (screenwriter), and Jussi Rantamäki (producer)
Do you want to be a world champion or the champion of your own life? On the surface, The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki is a period piece based on a character from real life, but at its heart is the age-old question of whether to choose love over glory.
Director Juho Kuosmanen steers this drama – his feature film debut – with an assured hand. Its delicious, understated humour, combined with the nostalgic patina of Jani-Petteri Passi’s striking black-and-white cinematography, sets the stage for great performances all round.
Sparrows is the coming-of-age story of teenaged Ari, whose life is turned upside down when his mother decides to move abroad with her husband. Ari has no choice but to leave Reykjavík for his childhood home in the Westfjords to live with his alcoholic father whom he hasn’t seen for several years. The film explores various coming-of-age themes, and in particular the father-son relationship from the perspective of an abandoned child. Ari’s interactions with women also come into play, and his relationship with childhood friend Lára is central to the narrative.
Director Rúnar Rúnarsson has developed a distinctive personal style based on meticulous observations of traditional Icelandic culture and aesthetics following the advent of modernity, often juxtaposed with complications related to the march of time. Sparrows underscores these themes in the conflict Ari experiences between his old and new lives, as well as in the demise of traditional values and the harsh trade-off that growth brings to the fore.
- Louder Than Bombs by Joachim Trier (director and screenwriter), Eskil Vogt (screenwriter), and Thomas Robsahm (producer)
Joachim Trier’s Louder Than Bombs is a study of grief that centres around a father and his two sons three years after their mother has passed away. She has left behind a small, loving family with some complex relationships. They struggle to connect with one another and to speak about their grief and their own existence.
Trier and his regular screenwriter, Eskil Vogt, portray events subtly through lucid, organic, original cinematography that addresses the different emotional state of each character. Memories of, longing for, and loss of a dead woman are central to the care that Triers shows for his characters.
Magnus von Horn’s The Here After is a timeless film that raises classical moral questions in unexpected ways that challenge the viewer.
As do Krzysztof Kieślowski’s “commandment films”, The Here After conveys the mechanisms and day-to-day effects of violence with a low-intensity energy, using a camera that depicts both landscape and people as contained in deep desolation. The film’s austere visual expression is in tune with a story in which what isn’t said has the same weight as the scant dialogue. The sensitive interplay between the father and son in the film also helps to make The Here After an unusually mature debut, one that already feels like a classic.
Watch clips from the nominated films here
This is the thirteenth time that the Nordic Council Film Prize will be awarded. The prize is worth DKK 350,000, which is shared between the film’s director, screenwriter, and producer. The winners of the Nordic Council’s five prizes will be announced and awarded at the DR Concert Hall in Copenhagen on 1 November.