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Cecilie (Sonja Richter) and Joachim (Nikolaj Lie Kaas) are about to get married when a freak car accident leaves Joachim disabled, throwing their lives into a spin. The driver of the other car, Marie (Paprika Steen) and her family donít get off lightly, either. Her husband Niels (Mads Mikkelsen), works in the hospital where he meets Cecilie and falls madly in love with her, much to the scorn of his teenage daughter, Stine (Stine Bjerregaard). While Joachim nurses his anger impotently, Cecilie and Niels have to decide whether to give up everything for this new love.

Review by Richard Kuipers:
With a few amendments to the Dogme 95 manifesto, Lars Von Trier and his Danish delinquents might actually be on to something. As well as dreaming up a gimmick that has increased the international distribution of Danish films beyond anyone's wildest dreams, the Dogma dilettantes have also produced powerful dramas including The Celebration (1998), Mifune (1999) and now Open Hearts. 

True to its title, Susan Bier's film is a raw examination of the roles played by chance and coincidence in the determination of human relationships. The basic plot is pure soap opera but the treatment is anything but as the lives of young and optimistic Cecilie and Joachim suddenly and violently intersect with those of apparently happy middle-aged couple Marie and Niels. What elevates this way above the ordinary is the startling emotional honesty of the characters. 

The script gets to the heart of the matter at every moment and the result is powerhouse drama with the suspense level of a thriller. No words are wasted and no dark corners left unexplored as the vulnerability of Niels and Cecilie at this precise moment in time snowballs from a sexual affair into a love both imagine to be worthy of the risk and consequences. Nothing is as simple as that and how their situation is resolved (and not resolved) is depicted with agonising realism and conviction. The intense nature of the dialogue isn't restricted to the central quartet of adults either. Some of the most riveting scenes involve Niels and Marie's teenage daughter Stine (Stine Bjerregaard), whose bluntly-worded confrontations with her father - she calls Cecilie "the mishap girl" - are positively electrifying. 

The greatest benefit of the Dogma filmmaking rules is the freedom it gives actors to find the truth in their characters and this entry is no exception. The entire cast excel in demanding roles, with Paprika Steen and Mads Mikkelsen the standouts as a middle-aged couple at the crossroads. The only reservations I have with this searing drama are technical ones. While its refreshing to see hand-held camerawork that doesn't induce headaches, the unnecessarily jumpy editing style is a distraction. The insistence on recording absolutely live audio (no post-synch is allowed in Dogme-land) makes the aural experience uncomfortable at times. If this silly rule were stricken off the manifesto who knows what Dogme might achieve. 

Special features include director Susanne Bierís commentary, photos, biographies, deleted scenes plus a featurette and press conference from San Sebastian International Film Festival.

Published February 12, 2004

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CAST: Sonja Richter, Nikolaj Lie Kaas, Mads Mikkelsen, Paprika Steen, Stine Bjerregaard, Birthe Neumann, Niels Olsen, Ulf Pilgaard

DIRECTOR: Susanne Bier

SCRIPT: Anders Thomas Jensen (based on an idea by Susanne Bier)

RUNNING TIME: 115 minutes

PRESENTATION: Widescreen 16: 9

SPECIAL FEATURES: Featurette Open Hearts at Filmfestival; press conference San Sebastian Int Film Fest 2002; Deleted scenes; commentary by director Susanne Bier; Zulu Award; music from the soundtrack; trailers; still photos; poster artwork; biographies;

DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Warner Home Video

DVD RELEASE: February 11, 2004

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