The Salvation / Denmark / 2014 / dir. Kristian Levring / 98 mins / western / starring Mads Mikkelsen, Eva Green & Eric Cantona
If Mads Mikkelsen stars in a film, that production will enjoy a great amount of attention, that is for sure. However, there is a problem when a film can only offer this. The Salvation by Kristian Levring may not be a complete waste of time but one should show the symptoms of an avid Western film fan to think positively about it.
Western films had their glorious time back in the middle of the 20th century, and many viewers were or are still fascinated by the (usually) bloody stories of the Wild West. During that short period of time in fact the genre itself went through an evolution. Originally, this type of films was meant to reflect upon the American pioneers’ life, circulating around the topic of finding a new home(land). “It is normally rooted in archetypal conflict – good vs. bad, virtue vs. evil, white hat vs. black hat, man vs. man, new arrivals vs. Native Americans (inhumanely portrayed as savage Indians), settlers vs. Indians, humanity vs. nature, civilization vs. wilderness or lawlessness, schoolteachers vs. saloon dance-hall girls, villains vs. heroes, lawman or sheriff vs. gunslinger, social law and order vs. anarchy, the rugged individualist vs. the community, the cultivated East vs. West, settler vs. nomad, and farmer vs. industrialist to name a few.” Additionally, the main character acts an outsider who rarely settles down but fights for the somewhat isolated communities in need even though he himself has an agenda.
The Salvation cannot be considered anything else other than a Western with a greatly predictable plot, and where the characters represent archetypes and are only one-dimensional. Moreover, the film-makers also wanted to be sure that every single member of the audience fully understands that oil is hidden in the ground. Time to time oil wells conquer the screen, and the black gold is slowly flowing and insolently reminds us that the future belongs to it, in other words, to power, greed and money – unfortunately, in most cases over the dead bodies of civilians.
The film perfectly describes the present by showcasing events might have happened in the past, and relentlessly warns us that our era does not really differs from the past, though, the tools and mains being used are more sophisticated or quite disguised now. It cannot be argued that Kristian Levring hasn’t really taken risks with his new film. He directed a Western without adding something new to the genre, meanwhile repeating the importance of oil over and over again…