Review: The Art of Crying

The Art of Crying is a failure, mostly for its desperate sense of trying.

The Art of Crying
Photo: SF Films A/S

Peter Schønau Fog’s Danish hot-potato The Art of Crying is a failure, mostly for its desperate sense of trying. The term “reality of life” is referenced throughout the film, which could apply to life on the festival circuit, where these Solondzesque nightmares are becoming commonplace. Set in South Jutland in 1971, the film’s story concerns a family’s attempts to cope with a father’s repeated threats of suicide. When Allan (Jannik Lorenzen) learns that Dad (Jesper Asholt) experiences a sense of purpose after giving a eulogy for the son of a business competitor, the young boy conspires to kill a relative. Seemingly innocuous, the film is told (not uninterestingly but still somewhat lazily in an attempt to shirk character development elsewhere) from the point of view of this naïve little boy, who doesn’t quite understand why his sister Sanne (Julie Kolbeck) puts her hands between Dad’s legs whenever the old man starts weeping. Because Allan is too young to understand the birds and the bees, we’re meant to be fascinated by the way he threatens to play with his father’s cock if his sister refuses to do so herself. But is the boy too young to understand that whatever Anna is doing with her father brings her great pain? Pig-piling its provocations, The Art of Crying accomplishes little of great significance with the exception of, perhaps, trivializing incest. Always courting reprehension, the film is easy to dismiss, from its fantastical notions of sacrifice to the way Schønau Fog awkwardly pitches the story between black comedy and something slightly more sincere. (It would appear that the director has created something that isn’t so much caught between a rock and a hard place as it is between The War Zone and Happiness.) But unlike Todd Solondz’s last assault on common decency, the film at least gives us a main character whose confusion and curiosity about the noxious world around him suggests the behavior of a child that might actually live on planet Earth.

 Cast: Jannik Lorenzen, Jesper Asholt, Julie Kolbeck, Hanne Hedelund, Thomas Knuth-Winterfeldt, Gitte Siem Christensen, Rita Angela  Director: Peter Schønau Fog  Screenwriter: Bo Hr. Hansen  Distributor: SF Films A/S  Running Time: 106 min  Rating: NR  Year: 2006

Ed Gonzalez

Ed Gonzalez is the co-founder of Slant Magazine. His writing has also appeared in The Village Voice and The Los Angeles Times. He’s a member of the New York Film Critics Circle, the Critics Choice Association, and the Latino Entertainment Journalists Association.

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