The title of this new Danish Western suggests a religious content – and so it turns out. Its father is Clint Eastwood’s High Plains Drifter and grandfather Sergio Leone’s Fistful of Dollars. These are pure revenge stories, which in Eastwood’s case he spiced with the scorching taste of Apocalypse, Judgement and the Day of Wrath. But it is a Danish film, so Carl Dreyer comes to mind as well: I saw in the film an unlikely crossover with Ordet/The Word: the sheriff-minister recalls the vicar in Ordet, a figure of authority in his community but quite out of is depth to deal with what is going on around him. For that is needed an outsider figure untainted by social compromises, i.e. Johannes in Ordet, Jon in Salvation. And in this Manichean world of good and pure evil, the sacrificial martyrdom of the grandmother and the crucifixion of Jon have particular power from which resurrection follows for Jon, and redemption from evil for the community who have done nothing to deserve it. If you add to this the idea that Delarue’s tyranny draws on memories of Nazi Occupation, you have a very Danish film indeed.
It’s all sustained by a compellingly dark visual style, understated acting – Mikkelsen is, in the Eastwood manner, a master of the ‘voluntary inexpressive’ – and some brilliant narrative ellipses that catapult the story forward.
Dreyer is a central figure in my NEW FILMGOER’S GUIDE TO GOD