A power performance


Applause (Applaus)
Year: 2009
Language: Danish
Director: Martin Pieter Zandvilet
Cast: Paprika Steen

This month, Bengaluru was host to a European film festival centered on women’s issues. I naturally had to watch a few! Sadly, I got to watch just one – the Danish movie, ‘Applause’. The main protagonist of the movie is played by the same actor that played Christian’s sister in the movie ‘The Celebration’ that I reviewed last month. In this movie too, there is a Christian – her ex-husband.

Paprika Steen plays troubled actor Thea in this movie about love, loss and reclamation. As an alcoholic, her marriage spiraled out of control and she voluntarily gave up custody of her two sons. Her on-stage portrayal of Martha seems to mirror her own life’s drama. The ruination is caused due to alcohol, the fraying of relationships and the complete and utter lack of control over the path life is taking. Thea tries to steer her life back into some semblance of normalcy. She gets in touch with her ex, and asks to be a part of her sons’ lives. She yearns for the feeling of being a mother, of taking care of her sons and of having a family life…..her empty home reminds her of her past and the viewer feels as though the movie is a mirror to her disturbed soul.

Her sons are hesitant at first, but her repeated attempts pay off and they warm up to her. Through the heated exchanges between her and her ex, we realise that she was physically violent with her children. And thus, her repeated entreaties to allow them to live with her for long periods fall on the deaf ears of a flustered Christian. The movie portrays beautifully the struggles of someone trying to escape the clutches of a substance that preludes and sequels their every action – in Thea’s case, alcohol. We feel her mind fighting, trying not to give in to alcohol all in the hope of getting her sons back.

Just as in every story of a recovering addict, here too the viewer is always wondering whether the addict will turn her backs forever on the substance, or give in, just for that one hit. The movie has some very poignant moments such as when Thea buys toys for her sons, the day they come over to her house and they have a happy time pretending to be Vikings.

How will Thea’s life pan out? Will she get custody of her sons or will she return to the ravages of alcohol?

Verdict: A wonderfully crafted movie that explores the emotions of a recovering alcoholic trying to reclaim her life.
Rating: 4stars
Hot: It seems as though the role was made for Steen – what a powerful performance!
Not: The very real possibility of an addict running back to their substance is slightly, if not very depressing.