Its not very well known, at least in this country, that Denmark
has soldiers on the ground in Afghanistan. The Danish fighting force might
be small, but it is right there in the forefront of the battle against
the Taliban, as evidenced by the new feature film, A WAR, which has just
been released by Magnolia Pictures.
Written and directed by Tobias Lindholm, a former scriptwriter on the
Bogen TV series, A WAR is Denmarks official entry in the 2015 Oscars
best foreign-language category. It was also screened last year at the
Venice and AFI film festivals.
For the past fourteen years, Denmark has been a nation at war. It
has defined my generation, more than anything else, that we have sent
young men to wars that havent been about defending Denmarks
borders but are based on a more abstract political choice, said
Lindholm in an interview.
A WAR centers on a youthful company commander, Claus M. Pedersen (Pilou
Asbaek), who heads a squad of infantrymen stationed in a desolate Afghani
province which is in the grip of the Taliban. Sequestered in a heavily
fortified compound, the Danes live perilous lives, thanks to the enemys
bombs, mines and skill at hand-to-hand fighting. The pressure on the soldiers
is constant and ferocious, with death looking over their shoulders 24/7.
and his DP, Magnus Nordenhof Jonck, shoot the action from up close, using
hand-held cameras to capture the pressure and danger the men face, especially
when they are out on patrol. Completely exposed, the Danes know that each
mission is futile, that they are fighting a war they cannot win. Hence,
they cant help but ask themselves why they are there. All talk of
bringing democracy to Afghanistan has become meaningless to these weary,
battered men whose only reality, only principle, is survival.
Then the director shifts gears and introduces us to Pedersens family
back in Denmark, where his wife Kajsa (Tuva Novotny) is struggling to
keep things together. His absence is sorely felt; his three young kids
desperately miss him and wont be placated by his occasional phone
calls. War takes its toll on civilians as well as combatants, the film
The crucial dramatic incident in WAR is triggered when Pedersens
squad comes under fire while on a humanitarian mission to aid an Afghani
family, forcing the commander to make a difficult, heat-of-battle decision:
should he save his men by firing on a farm house that contains innocent
as well as evil people? His order to pull the trigger results in an army
investigation and later a court-martial trial back in Denmark.
A WAR not only exposes the tragic nature of the conflict in Afghanistan
but tells a complex and powerful story, one which is deeply rooted in
humane and compassionate values.