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Accused (2005)
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by Jason Whyte

"Troels Lyby. If you don't know who this great actor is, read on..."
5 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2005 VANCOUVER INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL. I love the times where I am still surprised at a viewing of a film, where there are still the times where a great piece of cinema finds you and not the other way around. And when you do find it, the film takes over you in a way that you had never anticipated and you find yourself in a constant state of pleased shock for having come across it.

I found myself in one of many scheduling dilemmas at this year’s Vancouver Film Festival where I wanted to see a screening of Niki Caro’s “North Country” but the cinema where the film was screening was rumored to start late due to anti-piracy security taking over the screening. Later I found out that it had started very late, and it also doesn’t help that the cinema also takes quite a bit of time to fill its 1144 seats.

I bit my tongue and passed on seeing a new Hollywood movie a few weeks early and found myself with a ticket for an evening show of the Denmark import “Accused” which I had very little knowledge upon entering the cinema. “A father accused of a horrendous crime, a daughter who may or may not be telling the truth” reads in the festival program. “This could go anywhere,” I thought, and then I emerged 103 minutes later seeing what could not only be the best film I have seen at this year’s festival, but one of the very best films of the year, a powerful examination on accusal and how its effect can tear apart a family unit.

It also contains -- and I stand by this -- the best lead performance I have seen in a movie this year, and could very well go down as one of the best performances I have ever seen on film. Yes, as much as that smacks of hyperbole, I said it, and as I talk about the film it will help shed light on why.

The film begins on Henrik (Troels Lyby), a swimming instructor with a loving family; although while his wife Nina (Sofie Grabol) loves him, his 14 year old daughter Stine (Kristine Rosenkrands Mikkelsen) is rebellious and has been known to have a history of lying and deception. When Stine accuses her father of sexually molesting her – twice when she is 11 and 12 – Henrik is enraged, and then quickly thrown in jail. Henrik is offered a private cell or to be put into the regular jail cells. “I would recommend the private cell,” the guard says with a smidgen of a smirk, “You don’t want to be in the other jail cells with what they do to your kind.” “Do you find this funny?” says Henrik, who clearly picks up the guard’s tone.

The film slowly begins to move in on Henrik and the possibilities of what he could or could not have done. The film’s director, Jacob Theusen, who is masterful at the essence of timing and silence, gives us much to ponder as the film progresses. Is Henrik, who is eventually jailed and tried in court (to which her daughter, under the law, can not hear her testimony in the same room and must watch a video in a separate room) guilty of what he has done, or is Stine out on a warpath just to get attention for her problems? It’s not like Stine hasn’t lied in the past, either. We are also shown the emotional turmoil that Nina goes through as well, who questions the accusation and tries to harbor her emotions infront of Henrik.

There is a sequence towards the end of the film that has haunted me for days since I have seen it, where Henrik moves in on Stine in a powerful monologue on the effects her accusal has had on him, and the utterance of a single line of dialogue shifts the entire perspective of the scene onto Stine, who communicates so much without saying a single line of dialogue. It is one of those scenes you wish you could hang on your wall, as painful as it is to watch.

Troels Lyby. The Danish actor has never been seen by these eyes before, but has etched a permanent spot in my subconscious in a performance that reminds me of the first time I saw Jack Lemmon in “The Apartment”, Peter Sellers in “Dr. Strangelove” or the moment Marlon Brando walks into frame in my favorite film, “Apocalypse Now”. Lyby’s character is a person whose accusal has torn his life apart and has no clue on how to handle his wife, his daughter or even the people around him, and Mr. Lyby takes this horrific material on without fear.

I should also say at this point that I now know how Roger Ebert felt when he saw Charlize Theron in “Monster”. Lyby’s performance has hit me in the same way. His mannerisms, timing and precision in his performance is something that would easily land him an Oscar nomination…but that would mean that people would have to see it. Roger Ebert can get the ball rolling on a great discovered performance. I know that I am an independent writer from Victoria, BC, Canada and I certainly don’t have the pull that Mr. Ebert does, but here’s hoping that this film gets played at the right film festivals and is seen by the right people.

“Accused” is a great film, a dark and intense look into the soul of a man who may or may not have done what his daughter has accused, and it is far from timid or kind, and it is a miracle that I came across it in a sea of great festival films. I saw another film at the Vancouver Film Festival recently called “The Dying Gaul” where Campbell Scott says that people don’t go to a movie to have a bad time; that they don’t want to go to be sad. “Accused” is not happy and is certainly a downer, and it may bring down your day, but it’s that kind of motion picture experience that assures you, in the day and age of explosions and CGI, that film can still hit you on an emotional and challenging level. Sometimes it is good for you to walk down that metaphorical alley in the big city, if you will…

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originally posted: 10/11/05 03:57:56
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Vancouver Film Festival For more in the 2005 Vancouver Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

8/26/13 Anne the dvd I was watching was scratched for the last chapter so did the father really molest h 4 stars
3/23/11 silvana jakich your critique is wonderful and has poetry to it. Thank you! 5 stars
10/17/08 Steve Brook Unexpected! 5 stars
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