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► Wildland is in UK cinemas from 13 August.
This confidently directed Danish feature debut by Jeanette Nordahl and with a screenplay by Ingeborg Topsøe will undoubtedly draw comparisons with David Michôd’s Animal Kingdom (2010). Like that film it follows a teenager reeling from loss and thrown into a den of criminal activity; the films have similar set-ups and both explore themes of family dysfunction, survival and the impact of violence on an impressionable mind. Yet a shift in the central role from male to female guides the emphasis away from vicious displays of machismo. This is a chilling portrait of twisted family loyalty, told from the perspective of a young woman caught up in grief, trauma and desperation.
Sidse Babett Knudsen plays Bodil, the owner of a nightclub and mother to three sons who do her bidding as loan sharks. Mads (Besir Zeciri) still lives at home, Jonas (Joachim Fjelstrup) is married with a baby and David (Elliott Crosset Hove) is torn in two different directions, between the life his mother offers and the one his girlfriend Anna (Carla Philip Røder) imagines. Impressive newcomer Sandra Guldberg Kampp plays 17-year-old Ida, who is placed with her estranged aunt and cousins after her addict mother dies in a car crash. It is through Ida’s eyes that we witness escalating hostility and glimpses of the secrets and lies that her mother wanted to keep her away from.
In a home where love and violence coalesce, a susceptible Ida is dragged down an insidious path. A sparse electronic score occasionally kicks in, mimicking the roar of an engine on an out-of-control car; a little on the nose, but it’s an effectively dread-filled sonic illustration of Ida’s psychological scars and her destructive journey. Kampp plays her role with a detached, wide-eyed coolness, observing the brood around the kitchen table, where snippets of conversation fill the viewer in on Bodil’s past.
Bodil gives Ida the love she craves but this new stability comes at a great cost and with a life that offers little choice. The screenplay furthers this idea with the nuanced surrounding characters. David appears tormented, Mads is in a state of arrested development, and though Jonas may appear to be in control you can see his relationship with his wife shrinking into the distance.
With Wildland, Nordahl has crafted a family portrait that deals in discomforting truths about motherhood and sacrifice. It simmers with palpable tension and sets an oppressive tone of fear and paranoia as it examines how difficult it can be to escape from a toxic combination of circumstance and family ties.