On the Offensive; Director Thomas Vinterberg Has Upset Americans with His New Movie. Should He Have Toned It Down?

The Evening Standard (London, England), July 28, 2005 | Go to article overview

On the Offensive; Director Thomas Vinterberg Has Upset Americans with His New Movie. Should He Have Toned It Down?


Byline: CHARLOTTE O'SULLIVAN

MY AGENT is smiling about this film," says Thomas Vinterberg. "For me, that's a sign that I won't be lynched."

Directors don't normally live in fear of being strung up. Then again, Dear Wendy isn't normal.

Set in West Virginia, this teen movie with a difference involves a bunch of lonely pacifists who bond over an obsession with guns. They call themselves The Dandies and are led by Dick (Jamie Bell), never seen without Wendy, his weapon of choice.

A cocky black killer and his paranoid, gun toting granny then enter the fray, creating emotional tension and forcing the gang into a showdown with armed-to-the-hilt officers of the law. All this to the Zombies Greatest Hits.

While obviously a critique of the heavy handed state, the film also takes pot-shots at cliquey, self-important white liberals.

It's a fizzy satire on the "sexiness" of weapons, which audiences on the festival circuit have lapped up. Others, though, are not amused. Variety's Todd McCarthy, for instance, slammed it as "anti-American".

"Oh, yeah," sighs the Danish Vinterberg, "he bombed it. I'm angry, because the label is going to stick. Unfortunately, he represents a lot of people, the older part of our target audience anyway. They're tired, they're embarrassed by their country but they don't want to hear it, it's like having a disabled brother; you don't want other people to point it out."

Dear Wendy is based on a script by another Dane, Lars von Trier, an individual supremely gifted at offending people.

He and Vinterberg have much in common.

Both were brought up in communes, both raised as socialists. They share offices in a bunker just outside Copenhagen and founded the Dogme 95 movement.

Both men are expert provocateurs.

Vinterberg, however, seems more of a softy. He says he felt for the young black actor, playing Sebastian, the film's catalyst. "The poor guy. He's the only black kid in the kingdom of Denmark, the whitest country on earth. He started reading the script and I was like, 'You've got to understand this is playful. We like you, we envy you ...'"

It's unusual for a well-known director to film a colleague's script, especially when it so obviously bears the latter's stamp (Dear Wendy is very much a companion piece to Von Trier's controversial Dogville and the forthcoming Manderlay). …

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