Dear Wendy

Director: Thomas Vinterberg

Denmark-Germany-France| U.K.| 2005. Colour. Dolby digital stereo. 105 min.

With its anonymous small town American setting (in reality a mocked-up former Danish army base), Festen director Thomas Vinterberg’s provocative look at gun ownership occupies not dissimilar territory to his screenwriter Lars Von Trier’s previous Dogville—through the strongly metaphorical element here mostly eschews its contentious predecessor’s gleeful element of US-bashing. Instead, it’s the play of ideas which takes centre stage as a bunch of misfit kids, including a very persuasive Jamie Bell putting his Billy Elliot days firmly behind him, find renewed confidence when they start carrying pistols. Styling themselves ‘The Dandies’, their exclusive club meets in secret to pore over antique firearms, ponder bullet trajectories and exit wounds, and generally fetishise weapons to the point of obsession. Honing their skills in an underground shooting range, they’re ready to face the tough mining community, yet their number one rule is that the guns are never to be brandished or (heaven forbid!) actually fired in public. They’re pacifists, after all!
With kindly local cop Bill Pullman’s fatherly eye unaware just what’s going on with these chums, it’s not hard to anticipate where the story’s leading, yet it doesn’t unduly affect the film’s power to disturb. Insidiously, Dear Wendy (titled after master Bell’s rather coquettish pistol) makes us complicit, as movie viewers raised on a constant diet of Hollywood action, in subscribing, unwittingly or not, to society’s ongoing love affair with firearms. Overall, it’s a playful conceit as much as a fully sustained narrative, but this curiously dreamlike offering gives us all worthwhile pause for thought.

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