I have to admit that I had high expectations of Mark Raso’s Copenhagen, probably even too high, long before the film actually came out. This was mostly due to an exceptional trailer; a brilliantly edited, two minutes long video, set to a haunting original song by the Danish band “Stoffer og maskinen”. I would easily name it one of the best trailers I have seen in quite some time. Yes, when I got to watch the full feature, I did feel slightly disappointed by certain parts. I may have expected it to be more suspenseful, with less of an attempt to be funny and a touch closer to the “art-house” side. Though regarding the latter, I can’t say it ever made any promises that it had to keep. Copenhagen might have failed to confirm those premature assumptions of mine, but other than that, it only caught me by surprise and turned out to be among the most engaging and worth watching movies of 2014.
The film begins with an indirect introduction to one of the main characters, William (Gethin Anthony), who has traveled from the U.S. to Denmark, with a letter he has to deliver to his Danish grandfather, as soon as he finds him. A bit shallow and a little mad at everything, William is lost, literally as he is metaphorically, until he runs into Effy (Frederikke Dahl Hansen), a local girl who will help him on his way to find his roots. The story takes place mainly in the streets of beautiful and colorful Copenhagen, which is photographed as bright and lively but also as soothing and not too crowded. As he learns more about his family, he realizes that the distance between them and himself is even greater than he had imagined. The closer he gets to his past, the more he moves away from it, while he becomes increasingly attached to Effy, who in the meantime has fallen in love with him. Can he fall for a girl who is half his age?
That question floats in the air between them, as it circles around the mind of the viewer throughout the movie, waiting to be answered. Twenty-year-old Frederikke Dahl Hansen gives an extraordinary performance and Gethin Anthony is almost as good. Solid and rich but never over-the-top, this is the kind of acting you would expect to see in Scandinavian cinema, even though the filming style is still pretty much American. The chemistry between them is of the kind one rarely comes across on screen, resulting in a sexual and emotional tension so strong and realistic that it becomes the center of attention, often overshadowing William’s personal journey. At that point, one starts wondering if finding out where you come from was meant to be the main theme of the story or if, in fact, it is all about connecting with someone and living in the present, finally feeling that you belong.
That said, it comes as no surprise that when Effy sings part of the main soundtrack with William watching her, one can almost guess the meaning of the lyrics, without knowing Danish. It is the same feeling you will get from their interaction during the whole film; an awkward, unsettling but at the same time exciting fact, that they silently keep repeating to each other: “You and I have melted into one.”
Overall, there were some clichés that the film could do without and also some shaky moments as far as both style and pacing are concerned. However, that is to be expected from a debut feature film and Copenhagen surely is a promising start for Mark Raso, who seems to have approached the subject of identity, human connection and relationships skillfully and with sensitivity.