Your Permission (Denmark/Sweden; 100 min.)
directed by: Paprika Steen
starring: Lars Brygmann, Sidse Babett Knudsen, Søren Pilmark, Nicolaj Kopernicus, Rasmus Bjerg
Bruce says: "Jan (Lars Brygmann), manager of the upscale dining room on one of the day ferry lines in the Baltic, arrives at work with a black eye. 'Is there a problem?' his boss Erilk (Søren Pilmark) asks. Jan makes excuses to Erik, bringing up the dangers of sliding doors. Days go by and the injuries vary. Another day it’s the nose; the next, an arm. Suddenly it is clear. Jan is a Danish milquetoast, the victim of spousal abuse. Shortly, we catch a glimpse of his domestic life and it isn’t pretty. Bente (Sidse Babett Knudsen), Jan’s wife, is a reclusive alcoholic who goes on rampages both physical and verbal. She goes by the name Mama Bear around the house. Jan returns home to find Mama Bear has fixed a lovely dinner and the candles are already lit; within minutes the dishes and food are flying. One begins to wonder how a relationship between two people could become so distorted.
"If Jan seeks pleasure outside his home it is usually a trip to the opera by himself although he does ask a woman from work if she would like to go with him. Just as we are about to feel truly sorry for Jan, he does something unforgiving – he hires the two mechanics Rudy (Nicolaj Kopernicus) and Alf (Rasmus Bjerg), who service his car to kill his wife. The suspense builds. Up to this point we fully expect him to arrive home to a bloody mess or, at best, an empty house, leaving us to guess what the thugs might have done with Bente’s body. Bent, Alf and Rudy are sitting around having a drink and listening to opera. The two hit-men are overcome with emotion that the music has provoked. Without further addressing the plot, it is at this point where the film reverses itself. Watching the second half is like seeing a different movie. That, by the way, is a good thing - not a bad thing.
"WITH YOUR PERMISSION is top shelf black comedy. Much of the film is screamingly funny and much is achingly poignant. The first rate script is by Anders Thomas Jensen (OPEN HEARTS, WILBUR WANTS TO KILL HIMSELF, AFTER THE WEDDING and RED ROAD). Jensen is notorious for his embodying his characters with strange thoughts and behavior. The most wonderful thing about Jensen’s writing is that he gives his audience plenty of wiggle room. In Toronto, the audience was forewarned that WITH YOUR PERMISSION is really twisted, a loaded word, one that is misleading without a context. I believe the announcer meant unbalanced not perverse.
"WITH YOUR PERMISSION is Paprika Steen’s second directorial effort. Everything about her film is perfect up to the very end. In the last couple of minutes, she falters badly. When asked about the ending of the film she claimed that she opted for a Charlie Chaplin type of ending. That response is a real head scratcher. I think Chaplin’s films centered more on social commentary than WITH YOUR PERMISSION, which is deeply psychological in nature. Taking a Chaplin ending and tacking it on a film about a disturbing psychological relationship is like pinning the donkey’s tail on the piñata. Aside from the ending, I really loved this film. 4 1/2 cats
WITH YOUR PERMISSION screened at the 2007 Toronto International Film Festival."