Father of orphans and protector of widows
is God in his holy habitation.
God gives the desolate a home to live in;
he leads out the prisoners to prosperity…
The good leave an inheritance to their children’s children
The good person out of the good treasure of the heart produces good, and the evil person out of evil treasure produces evil; for it is out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks.
This inspiring film will keep you guessing as the plot unfolds, and you will wonder about one character in particular—is he a good person or one with sinister motives? Jacob (Mads Mikkelsen) loves working at an orphanage in India, and so is very reluctant when he is asked to return to Denmark where a rich man has offered to make a large donation to the project, but only if Jacob returns in person to meet with the benefactor. Although the popular Jacob loves all the former street children at the orphanage, he is especially close to eight year-old Pramrod (Neeral Mulchandani). The boy refuses at first to come out because he is fearful that Jacob will not come back to celebrate with him his birthday. Promising him that he will return in time, Jacob leaves in a taxi, the children running alongside the car and waving at him.
In Copenhagen, Jacob meets business magnate Jorgen (Rolf Lassgard), who invites him to his daughter’s wedding that weekend. Although somewhat arrogant, and with a drinking problem, Jorgen is a congenial host. At the wedding party Jacob is startled to see that Jorgan’s wife Helene (Sidse Babett Knudsen) is the woman who had once been his lover. Judging by the expression on her face as she catches sight of him across the room, she is not overjoyed to see him again. Anna (Stine Fischer Christensen) is the daughter, so you might begin to guess concerning her relationship to Jacob, especially at the banquet where she unexpectedly follows the groom’s toast with one of her own that pays tribute to Jorgen, who, though not her natural father, has lavished such love on her through the years.
Distraught by all this, Jacob walks out of the party to be by himself. He wonders now about Jorgen’s motives for insisting that he come back to Denmark, though when confronted Jorgen claims not to have know of the relationship. The rich man draws up a set of papers for his bequest to the orphanage, but there is one stipulation—Jacob must agree to live in Denmark to administer the finances of the project. He cannot split his time, as he proposes in desperation, 50-50 between the two countries. Jorgen will not compromise. Caught in a dilemma—the orphanage is about to close for lack of money, and the millions offered by Jorgen will provide not only for its survival, but allow them to expand and rescue then times as many children off the streets—Jacob is torn, as we see in his telephone calls back to India to talk with Pramrod, angry that Jacob will not be keeping his promise.
Just when we suspect that this is a part of some elaborate plan of Jorgen’s to punish Jacob, the plot unexpectedly becomes more complicated. Suffice it to reveal that Jorgen and his motives are not what we expect.
Directed by Susanne Bier, this film, also up for a 2006 Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film, must have made it difficult for the Academy members to choose, the film being just as good as the winner from Germany, The Lives of Others. Ms. Bier, like so many European film directors, is spare in the use of her camera, music, and the fancy techniques so dear to Hollywood filmmakers. Much happens off camera, which in one instance really draws us up short. It turns out to be a film about not one, but two good men, who will go to great lengths to ensure the welfare of those whom they love. This is a film that will bring a lump to your throat—the details of family intimacy are so true—and remain in your mind for long after the last scene fades to the credits.
1) What kind of a lifestyle has Jacob chosen to live? Were you wondering what his underlying motivation was? Do you think he is making up for his earlier misspent life of drugs and alcohol?
2) How did you feel in regard to Jorgen when you first met him? Wondering if his motives were sinister?
3) How does Anna show that she is a good daughter? Were you surprised by the act of her new husband? Why do you think she turned to Jacob and not Jorgen during her moment of anguish?
4) What cross confronts Jacob in the offer of Jorgen to endow the orphanage?
5) How does Jorgen show that he is a good, provident father? What parallels do you see between him and the Psalmist’s view of God as father?