Aleister Crowley himself writes to Jack Parsons, inviting him to ascend to the next degree of Thelema.
For Min Brors Skyld (English title: For My Brother). 2014. Directed & Written by Brian Bang.
Starring Elias Munk, Christopher Friis Jensen, Allan Karlsen, Frank Schiellerup, Oliver Bjørnholdt Spottag, Tina Nørby, Frederik Ingemann Brandt, Lara León, Marie Louise Lund Jensen, Kit Langberg Rasmussen, William Gaarde, Robin Koch, Oliver Skou, Dorte Evalyn Evon, & Tobias Hyttel. Bang Entertainment.
Not Rated. 117 minutes.
Before getting into this review, I have to state the following.
TRIGGER WARNING: this movie contains several graphic scenes of sexual abuse and rape, as well as implicit and explicitly implied situations of incest, et cetera. PLEASE, if you have an aversion to any of this, turn back. And certainly don’t watch the film.
First time writer-director Brian Bang (also serving as cinematographer, producer, locations scout, editor, casting director) has come on strong with his feature For Min Brors Skyld, which I’ll refer to from here on in by its English title, For My Brother.
This is an excruciating look at the life two young brothers live saddled only with their father, their mother having died seven years before. Their father is an abusive man, both physically and sexually, and he also allows a friend of his to molest his oldest son in return for money. The oldest boy takes care of the youngest, sheltering him from the life he’s been forced into by his father. Right from the start we’re aware of the abuse. Unlike an episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit or some typical drama tackling the subject, we’re never kept in the dark. And that’s part of why Bang’s feature is so brutally effective, even though it occasionally steps in too deep for its own good.
With a movie like this there’s often a headlong dive into sensationalism, as people become aware of the abuse and either revenge or justice starts to work its magic. However, Bang keeps us rooted in the experience of the boys, and this is what sets it apart from similar projects. Yes, it is often hard to watch, especially when the graphic qualities jump out at you during various scenes. Despite that, our immersion in the perspective of the older brother Aske (Elias Munk) particularly is how Bang manages to keep us interested and still watching after the plot turns nastier than nasty. There are a couple moments I’m not sure of, in the sense of morality and also writing. On the whole, For My Brother is a psychologically harrowing piece of cinema, and also with its reality takes upon itself the role of showing viewers just how hopeless, never ending, horrific the sexual abuse of children really is, never pulling any punches and never once keeping the gloves on.
This sort of stuff always hits close to home for me. I don’t particularly enjoy sitting through any sexual assault scenes, in any film. Funny enough, Irréversible is an amazing movie, as is the original Wes Craven The Last House on the Left. Yet I still have to fast forward through the former’s infamous scene, and take no pleasure in the latter’s either. However, when these types of scenes or themes involve children, that’s tough to take. Any person in their right mind would feel that way, especially if they’ve been close to abuse or have been abused themselves. Ultimately, I feel what Bang does here with his story is not exploitative. We do in fact see a few graphic moments, one sees a bunch of men holding Aske down as he’s blindfolded, taking turns raping him. In fact if you can make through the initial scene, you’re not likely to turn away. Bang opens with an event that’s traumatizing. There’s nothing aggressive happening, other than emotionally aggressive, yet the impact is lasting. You’ll be revolted so quick, so hard and fast that moving forward will certainly be questionable for many. Worse than that his mother dies after being hit by a car. Not only is it sad anyway, but she is the one lifeline that Aske had, now that’s gone. So you almost feel like you’re on the verge of Dante’s Inferno, rimming a Circle of Hell, as the mother dies and unwillingly must leave her son in the hands of his paedophile father. Horrifying to begin a film. If you hang after the first 15 minutes, the rest (mostly) isn’t as bad.
For My Brother expresses the inescapable feeling abused children feel, that they continue to feel. Often people wonder how someone, once they’re older, can go on letting things happen, or at the very least go on without telling of what’s already happened before. It’s because of the cycle, the systemic degradation and humiliation of a young person by the abuse. Here, it’s twofold, as Aske’s father Lasse (Allan Karlsen) has pimped him out to others since the boy was young, also taking his turn, too. So after years and years, especially as a male being raped by his own father, the desire to stay silent is stronger. Like any other behaviour, the sex in all forms is completely routine. In opposition, sex is also warped. Much as Aske wants to be with a girl he can’t seem to get the job done, at least not right away. A young girl flips on him for not immediately getting an erection, so worse now is the shame. At this point in the film, Aske tells his close friend in a rage. Not all victims will even tell anybody. Many only find their greatest shame discovered after people find out somehow, and if it’s an ongoing thing it could go on forever. That’s the unfortunate point Bang gets across as a writer.
Without spoiling the end, this movie is grim through and through. There are only slight glimmers of hope. These come when the brothers are together. This is why the film has its title. Aske not only tries to protect his brother (as in “I take the abuse for my brother”), he likewise keeps living because his brother is the sole bright spot in his life (as in “I only live but for my brother”). Moreover, the actor that plays Aske – Elias Munk – does a fantastic job. It’s hard to play a role like this, as it can easily descend into melodrama. Coupled with the ultra realistic style of Bang’s direction, Munk makes the character feel real. He is complex. He is tortured, but also has a light and foolish side that comes out with his brother. Seeing him deal with the brutal life his father forces upon him is emotional, you’ll probably find a tear or two ready to form, if they don’t full on fall. Similar to Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s performance in Mysterious Skin, Munk plays this edgy, tough role with grace and power. I’ll definitely be seeking out other films he’s in to watch him again.
I have to mention Frank Schiellerup playing the hideous pervert Hans. Basically, he’s the villain of the movie. Alongside the father, of course. From the beginning he is a terrifying presence in Aske’s life. Once the boy’s mother dies you can almost feel the guy ready to crawl all over him like a serpent on its prey. There is something eerie about him and so I have to give credit to Schiellerup. He makes Hans into a proper monster.
This is not a movie I’ll recommend. If you’re brave enough, go ahead. It undeniably does have a message. Don’t let anybody tell you that it’s gratuitous for the sake of being harsh. For all its nastiness, it could easily have been nastier. Absolutely. There is a slight, if barely visible hint of restraint. Either way, For My Brother does not sugar coat any of its subject matter. It also doesn’t offer any hope. Not saying this is a requirement. Not all stories are the same. Though it’s notably admirable for a film to try spearheading a raw, honest depiction of child abuse. While there are plenty elements which could’ve been executed better (the score mainly did nothing except detract from the realistic style), Brian Bang does pretty good for his first feature, and again, commendable to take on such a controversial, difficult topic as he does. Here’s to more hard looks at the tough corners in life. Bang will hopefully do something else gritty next time, looking into a different pocket of our fucked up world.
AMC’s The Walking Dead
Season 3, Episode 7: “When the Dead Come Knocking”
Directed by Daniel Sackhelm
Written by Frank Renzulli
* For a review of the previous episode, “Hounded” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Made to Suffer” – click here
This vicious entry in the third season starts with Merle Dixon (Michael Rooker) interrogating Glenn (Steven Yeun). As Maggie (Lauren Cohan) listens on in the next room, strapped to a chair, her man is being tortured, as Merle looks to find where they’re living. He wants to find his brother Daryl (Norman Reedus), but wouldn’t mind getting his hands on Officer Friendly, Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln).
Speaking of Rick, he’s watching Michonne (Danai Gurira) right outside the fence of the prison. The walkers finally tune in to her being around, so Rick and Carl (Chandler Riggs) stand there as she fends off a group of them. Her wound is getting worse then she passes out, which prompts the Grimes men to intervene finally. Or at least Carl does, anyways, surprising his father. They both head out and clear a path, hauling Michonne to safety and taking in the goods she brought. Best of all, they determine she was shot and not bitten by walkers. They take her inside. At least for now. Rick has her locked out of the cellblock for the time being.
Then, Daryl reveals to them all that Carol (Melissa McBride) is alive. She is happy to see them all, receiving hugs and all sorts of love. But also she discovers the baby without Lori, as she and Rick and Carl each share a few tears. Emotionally charged scene with a whole lot going on, which is something Michonne sees and you can tell it affects her. Perhaps this is a group she might someday be able to belong to, in her own mind.
Slippers and a robe on, The Governor (David Morrissey) receives Milton Mamet (Dallas Roberts) at the door. Apparently Mr. Coleman is ready – whoever that is.
At the prison, Michonne reveals Glenn and Maggie were taken and that’s why she had the formula when she arrived. Nobody trusts her, which is understandable. We do because we’re privileged with all the information. Slowly, she reveals the presence of survivors in the town of Woodbury, talking of The Governor and even calling him a “Jim Jones type“.
Swing back to Merle, who has Glenn’s face beat in, bleeding, purple and puffy. Except Glenn is one tough cookie. He warns of Rick coming to find them, what he’ll do. Merle isn’t afraid, but Glenn says: “We‘ve been on the road. Not hiding in some dungeon.” Problem is he doesn’t know about Andrea, which gives Merle a slight advantage he’ll use in some way.
The plan at the prison is for Rick and a few others to go to Woodbury and find the lost couple. Even the remaining prisoners agree to help, as best they can. Carl and Beth (Emily Kinney) are ready to do their part, too. Everybody is helping and doing what they can. Another brief father-son chat happens between Carl and Rick, starting out surrounding the boy having to finish off his mother; Rick trusts his boy to protect the people at the prison, which is a great thing to see. They end up deciding on a name finally, coming from Carl’s third grade teacher: Judith. A touching moment in between the harshness of their world.
Milton is experimenting in his little lab at Woodbury. The Mr. Coleman he spoke of is a subject they’re using to test where reanimation happens, how it does, and so on. Apparently the older gentleman is doing Woodbury “a great service“, or so The Governor fawns over him. Andrea’s brought in to help things along with Milton, which involves the playing of a record, the slight ringing of a bell and specific commands and statements from Milton. It is all meant to test the boundaries of the zombie virus, the functions of the brain after death and going into the void of the undead. All sorts of scientific stuff Milton hopes to understand. See, Mr. Coleman is dying and they’re trying to figure out more about walkers.
More disturbing things are happening in the room where Glenn is held. Merle lets a walker loose in the room with him. Glenn fights it off, still duct taped to a chair. He manages to bust out slightly and keep the thing from biting him. Very cool scene with an interesting zombie kill, also showing how resourceful Glenn is, and what a survivor he has become over time.
The most disturbing is when The Governor goes to see Maggie, tied to the chair. For a moment I was sure he would inflict some terrible kind of treatment, sexual abuse, on her. It is an ominous few moments between the two, as he puts a terrible fear in Maggie. And us. But she is defiant and refuses to give in to any of his tactics, telling him to do what he wants and to “go to hell“.
Out on the road, Michonne leads Rick and Daryl towards Woodbury. A large horde of walkers comes from the woods to keep everyone busy. With too many bearing down the group slips further into the trees where they find a lodge of some sort. Inside, a rotten dead dog stinks the place up. Better than outside where the dead line every inch of the lodge’s exterior. Rick finds a crazy man sleeping under a blanket on a bed. He threatens everybody’s safety ending in a shot fired and then Michonne putting her sword through the man to prevent walkers getting in. “Remember the Alamo?” quips Daryl looking out at the thicket of walking corpses crowding them inside. They feed the dead man to the walkers out front and sneak through the back, as the distraction works perfectly.
The heat turns up in Woodbury with The Governor threatening death against Glenn in order to illicit a response from Maggie. She obviously gives up the prison, its location, how many survivors are left there, and anything else they need. Sad to hear the information given up, but what else would you do? Maggie clearly doesn’t want to watch the love of her life die, not after everything. And Glenn almost explodes seeing a topless Maggie being treated how she is by The Governor. They’re left alone. Except now things are getting wilder, as The Governor’s paranoia sets in. At the very same time, Rick and his small crew have arrived at the gates of Woodbury. They stand ready to take back their people, to infiltrate.
The episode ends with Andrea strolling back to the new place she seemingly sleeps at night, everything appearing fine, The Governor wringing his hands and worrying about the next step, and just outside Rick Grimes poises to mount his offensive on the sleepy town of Woodbury.
Next episode is titled “Made to Suffer” and is sure to bring plenty of madness, excitement, paranoia, and naturally… death.