The latest from the Dogma cine-factory is notable for director Kristian Levring’s visual suggestion of madness. Ulrich Thomsen is fortysomething Mikael, clinically depressed for reasons left largely unknown, though from the cautiously loving treatment he receives from his wife and daughter we glean they’re used to being kept on edge. At one point he jokes to his little girl about being the Incredible Hulk, and when he agrees to participate in a clinical trial for an anti-depressant, Mikael spends the rest of the film popping pills in order to quell feelings of intense antisocial behavior. Levring frames his main character just off-center, toying with space and movement to suggest entrapment and mounting despair; during a scenic rowing trip in the lake adjacent to his house, Mikael and his brother-in-law essentially move from medium shot to close-up with every thrust of their oars. This type of fussy but nonetheless jolting formalism comes to reflect the festering boil that is Mikael’s psyche, but is there anything to Fear Me Not beyond Levring trying to sustain a perpetual sense of dread—that Mikael, at any moment, can go ape-shit and obliterate everyone in his path? Minimally plotted, at least by screenwriter Anders Thomas Jensen’s typically dense standards, the story hands Mikael and audiences a bit of surprise. The reveal happens almost matter-of-factly, and though it doesn’t clarify the root of Mikael’s mental state until now, it still deepens the film, delivering an intriguing message about mental illness as we understand it to manifest itself within us, and how we use the pretense of insanity to justify immoral behavior.
Fear Me Not is screening as part of tis year’s Tribeca Film Festival.