Danish crime drama Wildland (Original title: Kød & blod) from director Jeanette Nordahl and writer Ingeborg Topsøe makes its UK premiere at the Glasgow Film Festival this year. Exploring a Danish crime family through the eyes of an impressionable seventeen year old protagonist allows Wildland to put an inventive original spin on previously familiar territory.
After the death of her mother, seventeen year old Ida (Sandra Guldberg Kampp) is given a home by her long-estranged aunt Bodil (Sidse Babett Knudsen). Bodil and her three adult sons welcome Ida to the fold, with the teenager quick to get comfortable in her new surroundings. However, Ida begins to see the hard-hitting reality of the family business, prompting some uncomfortable moral dilemmas.
Comparisons to David Michôd’s Animal Kingdom are inevitable with both films packing a slow-burning intensity and a realistic, brutal depiction of the work of a crime family. Topsøe never quite delves into the specific details of the work of Bodil and her clan – we know it centres on some form of grisly debt collection with the writer preferring to focus on the dynamic of the family and not the details of their work. The family consists of the doting matriarch Bodil whose three sons are ultimately her world, the eldest Jonas (Joachim Fjelstrup) who lives elsewhere his wife Marie (Sofie Torp) and daughter, hot-headed middle son David (Elliott Crosset Hove), and the youngest, Mads (Besir Zeciri). Ida slots into this dynamic, beginning to grow comfortable in her new home – shown by her reluctance to be rehomed by social services. Yet a worrying statement from Marie suggests Ida should be uneasy: “Why do you think your mum stayed clear of them?”
The impressionable young Ida begins to run with the boys – accompanying them to their collections, attending sweaty neon-lit nightclubs, and being placed in precarious situations with the brothers. Jeanette Nordahl captures events with a slow-burning control, there are few moments of heightened action – yet when those appear they are fiery, urgent and shot with an explosive tension by Nordahl. The sparing nature with which Nordahl implements these is hugely effective – for example a scene which shows a botched collection results in Ida panicking, overwhelmed by the situation and running through woodland – highlighting how out of her depth the seventeen year old is when placed in these uncompromising, traumatic environments. Similarly, quieter moments can have a great power in Wildland including a scene where Jonas and Isa pick-up one of their victim’s daughters from school as an uncomfortable warning.
This slow-burning style is also channelled in David Gallego’s cinematography, capturing the suburban Danish setting with a lingering stillness showcasing the surprisingly mundane locations of the darkened criminal activities, giving Wildland a harsh realism. Nordahl’s direction also channels this slow-burning effectiveness, Ida is calm and soaks in her environment like a sponge and Nordahl explores this with considerable restraint ensuring that when the near-uncontrolled bursts of action in the crime scenes do happen, they are hugely effective.
Sandra Guldberg Kampp is sublime in the central role of Ida – keenly observing all the goes on around her. She’s torn by finding security in Bodil and the boys, yet is quietly overwhelmed by the unpredictability of her new surroundings and the behaviour of her new family. Praise should also go to Sidse Babett Knudsen as the tactile, overbearing matriarch and surprising head of the crime family who welcomes Ida with open-arms. She’s dangerous, powerful and challenges the traditional dynamic of the cold, callous male crime boss.
Wildlands‘ slow-burn style makes its quick bursts of action massively effective. A skilled lead turn from Sandra Guldberg Kampp provides the gateway into this brutal, realistic crime drama, whilst putting an inventive spin on the traditional crime family drama.