Jacob Thuesen's debut feature film Accused (Anklaget), which was screened in Competition at the Berlinale, is a film as bleak as the Danish winter in which it's set. Like his peers Lars von Trier and Thomas Vinterberg are wont to do, Thuesen (editor on von Trier's The Kingdom) centers his film around a controversial, uncomfortable subject -- in this case, child molestation/incest, or at least the accusation of it.
Henrik and Nina are an ordinary couple living a very ordinary life -- he's a swimming instructor, she's a secretary. Their only problem is their fourteen-year-old daughter Stine, a moody, quiet girl who has been growing more and more distant from the two of them. Assuming it's simply a case of puberty blues, the couple aren't terribly worried that she spends most of her time locked up in her room. That all changes when the police show up at Henrik's workplace to arrest him based on an accusation leveled by Stine -- an accusation that destroys the safe, protected, comfortable lifestyle they knew. With neighbors and even good friends turning against him, Nina is the only one who stands by his side. Stine has a history of fabricating stories, and though none has been quite this extreme, Nina has no doubt of Henrik's innocence.
What elevates Accused from being a simple "did he or didn't he" affair is Thuesen's subjective take on the story. The entire film is from Henrik's perspective, and is more concerned with showing how one's life changes when accused of something rather than determining if he's guilty or innocent. This does make the film a bit more uncomfortable, especially in that Stine doesn't appear until quite late in the film, months after the initial accusation. All we are left with is watching Henrik, and trying to reconcile how we feel about him. Thuesen takes a strictly unsentimental approach -- the film is not about passing judgment, and doesn't end with the guilty punished or the innocent set free.
As Henrik, Troels Lyby (The Idiots) does a wonderful job at revealing nothing -- the suffering is there, the damage has taken its toll, but it doesn't bring us any closer to the truth. One can see touches of Bresson at play here, though it lacks in the great director's humanism. This might explain why, ultimately, Accused is a less than fully satisfying film. Though watching the film is an incredibly tense experience (its 103 minutes feels far shorter), and the long-anticipated confrontation between Henrik and Stine is really quite powerful, Filmbrain found that once the film ended, there was little about it that stayed with him, nor did he find himself reflecting on it all that much. (With one exception being the performance by Kristine Rosenkrands Mikkelsen as Stine -- as brief as her role is, there is something so natural about her acting that the end result is chilling.) Still, Thuesen is to be credited with creating a non-sensationalistic film about one of the few remaining (and perhaps strongest) taboos. In the midst of the media carnival that is the Michael Jackson trial, it's a comforting thought. Filmbrain hasn't heard of a US distributor yet for Accused, but it's worth seeking out should it find one.