Niels Arestrup

Niels Arestrup

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Diplomacy Review


Good

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.

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39th Cesar Film Awards

Niels Arestrup - 39th Cesar Film Awards - Press Room - Paris, France - Friday 28th February 2014

Niels Arestrup

Our Children [A Perdre la Raison] Review


Extraordinary

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

War Horse Review


Good
Spielberg takes the hit stage play (based on the Michael Morpugo novel) to the big screen with guns blazing, not only recapturing the heart-stopping urgency of war, but also cranking up the emotion exponentially.

In early 1900s Devon, teenager Albert (Irvine) lives on a farm with his impulsive-drunk father Ted (Mullan) and his tough-minded mum Rose (Watson).

When Ted overpays for the wrong horse to work the fields, Albert adopts the horse, names him Joey and teaches him the ropes. But when war breaks out in Europe, Ted sells Joey to a cavalry captain (Hiddleston). At war, Joey changes hands between British and German officers, a young soldier (Kross) and a French farmer (Arestrup). Meanwhile, Albert joins the army, heading into the trenches to search for Joey.

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Sarah's Key [Elle S'appelait Sarah] Review


Excellent
Framing a harrowing story as an investigative mystery, this film carries a powerful emotional punch but never pushes the sentimentality. It also gives Scott Thomas yet another remarkable role to sink her teeth into.

Julia (Scott Thomas) is an American journalist living in Paris with her husband Bertrand (Pierrot) and their teen daughter (Hin). As they remodel Bertrand's family flat in the Marais, Julia is working on a story for her magazine about Parisian families who in 1942 were deported to Nazi camps in the most hideous conditions. Then one story catches her eye because it is linked to the flat.

And she starts to dig around, talking to Bertrand's father (Duchaussoy) and grandmother (Casadesus) to get to the truth.

Continue reading: Sarah's Key [Elle S'appelait Sarah] Review

The Big Picture [L'Homme qui Voulait Vivre Sa Vie] Review


Excellent
An intriguing variation on The Talented Mr Ripley, this French dramatic thriller holds our attention mainly because of the hugely engaging Romain Duris. The plot is a little loose and fragmented, but we can't take our eyes off him.

Paul (Duris) is a successful Paris lawyer living in suburban bliss with his wife Sarah (Fois) and two lively sons (Cacote and Antic). But just as his boss (Deneuve) offers him the chance of a lifetime, Sarah pulls the rug out by asking for a divorce. So Paul confronts the man (Ruf) he holds responsible, and this starts a dizzying journey as Paul makes a series of decisions that change his life completely. Along the way he meets a drunken newsman (Arestrup) and a sexy editor (Katic) who spark even more unexpected actions.

Continue reading: The Big Picture [L'Homme qui Voulait Vivre Sa Vie] Review

A Prophet [un Prophete] Review


Extraordinary
A blistering dramatic epic set mainly inside a French prison, Audiard's film takes us deeply into its central character while giving us an unnerving look at the justice system from the inside out.

After spending his childhood in custody, 19-year-old Malik (Rahim) transfers to an adult prison. He soon has his gentle naivete knocked out of him by Cesar (Arestrup), leader of the fearsome Corsican gang that rules the roost. As an Arab, Malik is in something of a no-man's land, caught between the Corsicans and the Muslims. And he uses this wisely over the next few years, learning about economics with the help of his friend Reyeb (Yacoubi) and making dangerous links with the Muslims and gypsies to become a confident kingpin himself.

Continue reading: A Prophet [un Prophete] Review

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

The Beat That My Heart Skipped Review


Excellent
James Toback's Fingers is an odd film, but it's an even odder film to become fascinated with for nearly 30 years. French director Jacques Audiard (whose Read My Lips was an undersung gem) has remade Fingers, updated it for the zeros, and given it a Parisian bent... and the end result is just as compelling as Toback's original.

The story tracks closely with the original: Thomas Seyr (Romain Duris) is a wayward twentysomething who, with partner Fabrice (Jonathan Zaccaï) is trying to make a name for himself by completing shady real estate deals half done with cash and half done with muscle. Thomas is the muscle. Meanwhile, his life is a shambles -- his ailing father (Niels Arestrup) can't get the Russian mafia to pay him the money he's owed, but he's marrying a "glorified prostitute" anyway. Fabrice, meanwhile, is cheating in his lovely wife (an unforgettable Aure Atika), and eventually Thomas fills in for him.

Continue reading: The Beat That My Heart Skipped Review

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