In Jeanette Nordahl’s Wildland, family is the most important thing in life. But is that good? Can a source of love also be a place in which one is broken down? Is the call of family worth giving up one’s sense of right and wrong? And what will we sacrifice to belong?
Following the death of her mother in a car accident, seventeen year old Ida (Sandra Guldberg Kampp) is sent to live with her aunt Bodil (Sidse Babett Knudsen) and three older male cousins. Ida is welcomed but she really hasn’t met any of them for many years. Her mother and aunt were estranged from one another.
Although Bodil welcomes her warmly, her cousins are a bit standoffish. But soon they are taking Ida with them to clubs and when they go to work. It turns out the family are loan sharks. The cousins go to collect debts, and often use violence or the threat of violence in the process. On one such collection call, the violence gets out of hand and there is trouble brewing for the family. Will Ida turn her family in, or will she be willing to sacrifice herself for the family?
One of the interesting parts of the film is watching the family dynamics. We hear words of love and signs of affection, but they often seem to have just a small touch of unspoken threat. The violence that the cousins mete out is a part of the atmosphere at home. Ida for the most part stays in the background and observes. Is she soaking in the culture or trying to distance herself from it?
The film shows the power of the desire to belong and be loved. Ida is alone in the world, except for Bodil and her family. Bodil has learned how to manipulate her sons and is now working on Ida to prepare her for a place in the family. (There are also two other women, a wife and a girlfriend of the sons, plus a grandchild and an expected grandchild that will all be living in this environment.)
There are ways that this film harkens back to other crime families, such as the Corleone family in the Godfather films or the Cody family in Animal Kingdom (which also had a matriarch leader). As in those families, we see the bonds of family being manipulated and abused. Such films show how the concept of family and loyalty can be come corrupted and corrupting. A reminder that the basis of sin is often a virtue that is abused.
Wildland is in limited release and available on virtual cinema.
Photos courtesy of Film Movement.