Niels Arestrup

Diplomacy Review


Expanded from Cyril Gely's stage play, this film remains finely focussed on a history-changing dialogue between two men on the day Paris changed hands from the Nazis to the Allies. The stakes are so high that the film can't help but be riveting to watch, even if the details of the real-life encounter have of course been fleshed out fictionally. Although some of the drama feels a bit underwhelming, the powerful performances make it remarkably involving.

In August 1944 Hitler levelled Warsaw in a fit of rage, then turns his sights to Paris, which is on the verge being reclaimed by the Allied forces. So he orders his commander there, General von Choltitz (Niels Arestrup), to flatten the city and kill as many people as possible in retaliation for Allied attacks on Berlin. Choltitz dutifully lays explosive charges on the bridges and plots the destruction of the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, Louvre, Arc de Triomphe and Hitler's favourite landmark, the Opera. Then French-born Swedish diplomat Raoul Nordling (Andre Dussollier) turns up to offer an impassioned plea for the city. Choltitz says he's obeying orders, but Nordling begs him to consider the consequences for both mankind and his own future.

Obviously, Paris survived the war, and knowing the outcome of these intense negotiations eliminates much of the suspense, so the film's entertainment value is in the quality of the argument, which plays out in real time as these men manoeuvre to get the upper hand in the discussion. Again, this isn't much of a contest, as Nordling always has the moral authority, but Choltitz is caught in a nasty situation, wanting to do his duty even though he knows it's the wrong thing to do. Unfolding in real time, there are constant wrinkles along the way as we wait for the argument that sways everything. So it's a little disappointing that Gely and veteran director-cowriter Volker Schlondorff rely instead on some twists in the tale to spur things forward.

Continue reading: Diplomacy Review

Our Children [A Perdre la Raison] Review


One of the most unsettling movies of the year, this sharply made drama shifts inexorably from blissful romance to something darkly horrific. It's so understated that it might alienate audiences who want everything carefully explained to them. But the problem is that we understand far too well why the story goes where it goes, and that makes it even more haunting.

Based on a true story, the film opens with a brief glimpse of a terrible family tragedy before flashing back to happier times. Now living in Belgium, Moroccan-born Mounir (Rahim) has a whirlwind romance with Murielle (Dequenne). After they get married, they move in with Mounir's friend Andre (Arestrup), a doctor who married Mounir's sister (Raoui) so she could get a European visa. As Mounir and Murielle have four children in quick succession, she struggles with their domestic situation, longing for a family home of their own. She even offers to move to Morocco to live near Mounir's mother (Belal). But Andre seems to have some strange hold over Mounir.

As the years pass, Murielle's quiet desperation grows inexorably, although the film's audience seem to be the only ones who notice. Dequenne's performance is a masterful depiction of submerged emotion as she struggles to quietly cope with Andre's passive-aggression and Mounir's cultural machismo. So as the tension rises, we react like her, clinging to happier moments and possibilities rather than face up to the raw facts. This wouldn't work as well as it does without the superior work from Rahim and Arestrup, who previously starred together memorably in A Prophet. They cleverly refuse to let their characters drift into any sort of stereotype.

Continue reading: Our Children [A Perdre la Raison] Review

Sarah's Key Trailer

In the present day, New York journalist Julia Jarmond is asked to work on an article about the Vel'd'Hiv Roundup of Jews by French authorities in 1942. Julia and her French husband, Bertrand, move to an apartment in Paris, where a Jewish family, the Starzynski's, once lived, until they were rounded up.

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The Big Picture Trailer

Paul Exben has it all: a job at one of Paris' most exclusive law firms, where he's tipped for promotion, a beautiful wife and two sons and a big house which he bought with his big salary. But lately his wife has been rather cold towards him - she has been cheating on Paul with a local photographer, Greg Kremer.

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War Horse Trailer

In rural England during the First World War, a horse named Joey befriends a young boy called Albert. One day Joey is sold to the cavalry and sent to the trenches in France, seeing firsthand the horrors of the Great War, yet touching the hearts of everyone he meets, including a French farmer, a German soldier and the British army. Although too young to enlist, 16 year old Albert joins the army and heads to France to find his friend.

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A Prophet Trailer

Watch the trailer for A Prophet

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Picture - Niels Arestrup and the cast... Cannes, France, Friday 16th May 2008

Niels Arestrup and the cast of 'Un Prophete' - Niels Arestrup and the cast of 'Un Prophete' Friday 16th May 2008 at Cannes Film Festival Cannes, France

Niels Arestrup

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