In a Better World   

by director Susanne Bier

For me, just getting to attend the Oscars made me feel like a princess for a night. I don’t think you realize how big it is for a small country like Denmark to be nominated for an Oscar. It’s really, really big. So you feel there really is a pretty big responsibility on you, which I think is different from being nominated in the other categories, which don’t have the national pride aspect attached to them. It’s a kind of redemption that we can tell stories that really matter to the world. Now having won the Oscar means a lot for the film. It means a stamp of quality for a movie which is a Danish film, which is almost unknown and now has suddenly become known in a different way.

In a Better World is the fifth film I have worked on with my screenwriter, Anders Thomas Jensen, and despite the serious subject matter of our films, our collaborations are always very playful. It is just the chemistry you find with some people and some directors. It's funny—when we originally met we set out to do a comedy, and we have been trying to do a comedy for 10 years. We always start out “Let's do a comedy,” but it tends to go into more serious twists and turns.

In a Better World sets out to explore the limitations we encounter in trying to control our society as well as our personal lives. It asks whether our own “advanced” culture is the model for a better world, or whether the same disarray found in lawlessness is lurking beneath the culture of our civilization. Are we immune to chaos, or obliviously teetering on the verge of disorder? This is not a political film: it’s about morals, basic human values. I wanted to explore the relationships between parents and children and the fragility of the idyllic Danish society. It's so easy for things to spin out of control, for violence to suddenly erupt, and it's so hard for people to act like decent human beings sometimes. I wanted to explore all those dark themes.

Because one of the themes of the movie has to do with the fragility of an idealistic society, it was extremely important for me that all of the locations look very beautiful. My particular world is not just Copenhagen. It had to be broader than this. My world is larger than it used to be. We wanted to tell a story that really mattered to the world, even if we only have five million people speaking our language here in Denmark. Because I do think the movie has real substance, and I do think that this movie is relevant and worthwhile thinking about, and deals with important issues.

I think if you want to speak to an audience and you feel that you have an important topic, like we did with In a Better World, you cannot make them feel suffocated when they leave the cinema; you have to do it in a way where you address the real important topics, but you also have to infuse your audience with hope. I do believe that there is hope and if you do the right thing then the world is going to be better. The big thing is to do it in the right way; sometimes you have happy endings but you feel that the ending isn't appropriate, but I think that our ending to this film is very real. I do think my movie has real substance; I think it’s relevant and worthwhile and deals with important issues. I hope it inspires and enlightens you, as it did me.

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