Xenophobia. Xen-o-pho-bi-a. Noun: an unreasonable fear or hatred of foreigners or strangers or of that which is foreign or strange. The definition of the word does not only describe in one word the main theme of Ole Bornedal's latest film but also the vast majority of main and supportive characters that appear in the story. The writer/director of "Nattevagten" – which still stands as one of the best European thrillers ever made according to yours truly – serves us a simplistic and sadly identifiable story, set in a remote little community where everyone knows and accepts each other but distrusts and reject outsiders. Imagine yourself the type of place where a traumatized war fugitive tries hard to fit in and accept jobs that nobody else wants, but at the same time the local drunks and lowlifes complain that these immigrants are stealing their jobs. This is a controversial but sadly all too familiar topic, and it takes a talented and courageous director to make a confronting – albeit sometimes grotesque and exaggerated – movie out of it.
Johannes and his family return back to his birthplace in the countryside, where they bought an old mansion that he is renovating with the more than welcome help of a Bosnian fugitive named Alain. Most of the town folks are marginal proletarians, however, like Johannes' brother Lars who's an alcoholic, pregnant girlfriend beating truck driver. On the day before the town's annual highlight – a carnival with a beer tent – Lars runs his truck over a sweet old granny who was on her way to the chapel on her moped. Lars frames Bosnian immigrant Alain for her death, which instantly causes the entire town to go on an aggressive and drunken manhunt. Johannes is the only person protecting Alain and they all entrench themselves in the house as the outrageous lynch mob arrives.
I watched "Deliver Us From Evil" at the Belgian Festival of Fantastic Films, where Ole Bornedal was present to introduce the movie himself. He said this was probably the most brutal movie he'd ever make. He's right, of course, but there simply isn't any other way to tell such a raw and shocking but sadly realistic story. According to Bornedal, the media and politicians want to make us believe that bad people only live in the Middle Eastern area, but this movie and its crude but recognizable characters prove otherwise. The comparisons with Sam Peckinpah's early 70's classic "Straw Dogs" are more than justified. Both film slowly but uncannily build up towards a shocking climax that only leaves behind victims. The dead and dying can't repent for the type of sins they committed and even the survivors won't be able to live happily ever after. If you decide to watch "Deliver Us From Evil", prepare yourself for devastating viewing experience, with a continuously unpleasant atmosphere and a number of truly gritty images, that will spook through your head for several more days. But it's more than worth it.
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