Thursday, April 12, 2012

Applause

By Moira Sullivan
Paprika Steen as "Thea" in Applause.
The subject of the 2009 Danish film Applause seems like a western luxury about problems of people's own making.  The cinematography has a "Dogme" feel to it—the outdated Danish cinematographic conception created by Thomas Vinterberg and Lars Von Trier, which involves making films in the here and now -  no props, natural lighting, and no guns.
The Danish actress  Paprika Steen plays Thea, a middle aged alcoholic actress, along with many of the people in her city in Copenhagen: problem drinkers, heavy drinkers, alike. She is trying to quit and regain the love of her two sons from her failed marriage a year and a half ago. The film is shot around the stage performance of Applause with Paprika Steen.
Martin Pieter Zandvliet makes his directorial debut in this film, and although it was made three years ago it seems enmeshed with the virtues of "Dogme"- 'naked' reality in detail such as Thea smelling sheets that belong to her young sons an, listening to their forgotten wind up toys. Not only is Thea's husband gone but is together with a new woman, and she must follow them on excursions such as to the zoo if she wants to see her sons. Seeing them once and awhile is all her husband wants to offer.
Broken homes are sad to watch. Thea consoles herself with drink. Her abandonment of herself and her family before and after is tragic. When she goes out, she sits alone, and insults, rightfully so, a man who wants to pick her up. When she later feels sorry for him, he puts her down. Later she meets him again, and discovers she has already been with him one night, in a blackout. She starts to drink again.
All Thea seems to have is her estranged husband and children, and without them she doesn’t seem to have anything except her personal assistant. There is no hope. Only personal misery. Where are the lawyers and why does Thea have to beg her husband’s psychologist lover for the right to see her children? Eventually she seeks professional marital help, makes an appointment with her husband, but doesn’t show.
Paprika Steen makes this film bearable, and is excellent in her role. Many women in her situation will be able to relate. She is the mother of her children but everyone around her punishes her for being ill. No one is better at it then Thea herself whose self-inflicted pain is difficult to watch. 
Applause is an admirable film for its sense of reality, even if the problems in the larger scheme of the world seem unimportant. Nothing is more real than the human connection, and in this respect, Applause is virtuous.
© 2012 - Moira Sullivan- Air Date: 04/11/12
Movie Magazine International

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