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How to Get Rid of the Others
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by Jay Seaver

"Frequently clever, if not quite Swiftian, satire."
4 stars

SCREENING AT THE 2008 FANTASTIC FEST: The fantasy the the center of "How to Get Rid of the Others" - permanently eliminating the freeloaders who take far more from society than they give - is likely more universal than most people would care to admit: Even the most generous of people has moments when they wish that they could scrape the barnacles off of society. It's an awful thought, of course, although it's sometimes useful to think awful thoughts.

How to Get Rid of the Others posits the recent passage of the New Copehangen Covenant, which will allow the government to execute their drains on society - addicts, those content to live off the dole, habitual criminals. They're doing this while most Dutch families are on vacation, using empty schools as processing centers, but the law requires that the accused be given a chance to plead their case. One batch of attendees will be interviewed by Army Major Christian Andersen (Søren Pilmark), with their final fates decided by Parliament Member Folke Rasmussen (Søren Fauli). The group thrown in a room to await their interviews do seem like a useless lot: Drunken artist Ole Pedersen (Tommy Kenter), brother and sister strip club owners John and Nancy (Poul Glargaard and Lene Poulson), obese Gerd (Lene Tiemroth), tattooed punk "China" (Rasmus Botoft), and indifferent Melanie (Marie Caroline Schjeldal). Christian is is most interested by Sidse (Louise Mieritz), though: She's obviously educated, claiming to be part of the "Mandela rebels" and trying to coach her fellow detainees so that they can avoid execution - and when she's brought to the interview room, she claims to be Belinda Jensen, affecting the character of a racist junkie. This, he decides, merits investigation.

Filmmaker Anders Rønnow Klarlund is no stranger to odd ideas - his last film was the unusual Strings - and he starts Others off with a sequence that is as funny as it is fascist, as Gerd's call for help with her malfunctioning scooter is responded to by a black helicopter full of armed men, who fly off to the facility with Gerd and scooter dangling beneath. The start of the film especially is peppered with that sort of dark absurdity, as Klarlund seems to get a real kick out of making his world a little out-there in all directions, not just the one. There's a conversation during Christian's conversation with Ole that's pure Monty Python in its rapid-fire meanness.

It's perhaps unfortunate that Klarlund and his co-writer Rasmus Botoft aren't quite so willing to keep to the same tone all the way through. The interview subjects become progressively more sympathetic throughout the movie, and while this may be the point - that once a community starts disenfranchising parts of its population, the line will keep moving - it stumbles a bit making it. We never get to see the interview with Melanie, for instance, so we don't have that clear an idea of what the criteria for her fate were, even though she seems like a borderline case. That's too bad, because what we do learn about her indicates that the writers are willing to call out the flaws of socialist policies as well as caricature heartless conservatives, which would have given the entire audience food for thought.

What the audience does get is a very impressive performance by Søren Pilmark. Major Andersen starts out a pure martinet, though one of keen intellect and insight. As much as he's in the villain's role, Pilmark doesn't play him that way. Andersen's a believer, understand, and even when he starts to gain some sympathy for the rebels, we get the sense that it's not because he has made a radical change in his beliefs. It's a nice balance between him being frightening and being the smartest, most reasonable guy in the room.

Also pretty good in a more comic role is Søren Fauli, whose portrayal of the squeamish civil servant is a textbook combination of righteousness in theory and squeamishness when confronted with the reality; it's his often ill-considered certainty that makes Andersen look more human. Louise Mieritz is quite appealing as the tormented Sidse, and has the nice ability to make the character a lesser actress than she is, although one who might convince somebody. The rest of the cast is nice, too, humanizing the characters targeted for elimination without necessarily making them sympathetic or likable.

That might be a turn-off for some; "How to Get Rid of the Others" has a bleak view of humanity even if it doesn't quite get the most it can from its nasty little premise.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=17760&reviewer=371
originally posted: 09/18/08 23:08:31
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