The Danish oddity "Deliver Us From Evil" courtesy of writer/director Ole Bornedal will undoubtedly be a very divisive film. Bold and disturbing, it is likely that you will either hate this lurid tale of violence, deceit, bigotry, and retribution or you may indeed love it (as I did)--but few will be apathetic after watching it. It is clearly Bornedal's intent to provoke his audience, to assault the senses, and to elicit a strong emotional response to the screen action. It's fair to say that goal has been accomplished. In a heightened state of reality, the film unwinds with a fevered pitch and an over-the-top zeal. An allegory of biblical proportions--this story presents a harrowing examination of class warfare, xenophobia, and mob vengeance within a small Danish community. It is stylized and unrepentantly bleak and, most assuredly, this is not a film that will be to everyone's taste. However, if you like offbeat international fare--this unfolds like the cracked cousin of Peckinpah's "Straw Dogs" with strong religious undertones.
The film isn't meant to be realistic in the strictest sense, it is meant to be excessive and in-your-face. The screenplay sets this hyper-aware tone by introducing the story principles in a rather whimsical narration by a traveling carnival barker. Playing almost to comedic affect, the film soon sets up a deadly serious story line. Lars, an abusive and alcoholic trucker, runs over a local woman on a trip home in his rig. Covering his actions, he frames a Bosnian refugee for the act--knowing that the hated immigrant will provide the perfect patsy. But there's just one problem--the victim's husband is a local bigwig who demands retribution in a vigilante court. And the refugee happens to be staying with Lars' brother and his family. Soon all parties will converge in a terrifying night of violence in which no one is safe from the escalating tension.
Wildly unpredictable, the story starts to move like a runaway locomotive. And amidst all the turmoil, the biblical references bolster this nightmarish vision of hatred. It is in this conflict that all the characters will come to define, or redefine, themselves. But regardless, no one will remain unscathed. I loved "Deliver Us From Evil." And just when I thought I had it all figured out, the movie knocked me for one final (and beautifully twisted) loop. Horrifying, uncomfortable, funny--I found the film genuinely unsettling and wildly entertaining. It's not for the squeamish, though. If anything I've said makes you think you won't like the film--you probably won't! But if you want to walk on the wild side with a provocative Danish allegory, give this a look. Seriously, this one caught me by complete surprise! KGHarris, 6/11.