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The Slate

Gangsters of Copenhagen

“The truth is more important than being original,” says Northwest screenwriter Rasmus Heisterberg. This search for honest reality becomes the driving force behind Northwest, directed by Michael Noer, which premiered Thursday, April 25th at the Tribeca Film Festival. The film follows the story of Casper, a young man entrenched in the world of organized crime trying to support his mother, brother and younger sister. Noer’s documentary background lends itself well to purveying truth in this film, while also explaining his choice in camera style. “Fuck [camera] dollies. Fuck the form,” Noer affirms in a Q&A after the film. “We try to focus on the acting, not the technical.”

Here’s what we have to say about Northwest:

Erin: At first, I wasn’t impressed with the film because the story seemed too familiar- a fatherless jobman ensnared in the violent and dangerous world of organized crime to earn a living for his struggling family, only to have his younger brother get involved and ensuing chaos. Yet, I found myself drawn into Northwest regardless, and I think that’s because of the raw conflicts between the actors. Director Michael Noer told us that the film’s characters who are brothers are brothers in real life, and all but one or two of the actors in the movie are untrained, living, breathing gangsters. That true grittiness you can’t find in even the best actors on earth, and it showed. 8/10

Alex: Like Erin said, the plot and premise of Northwest weren’t original, but the supporting elements of the film were what made it so captivating. The cinematography was almost innocent in the way it instructed the camera to follow the actors, never giving them breathing room to break character, catching every moment of weakness and fear. Noer dabbled occasionally in almost surreal shots flushed with color and light; otherwise, the film was pretty bleak, barren, morose and hopeless. The love the brothers shared, though, was real and extremely potent, and was one of the reasons I was so shocked by the film’s ending. 8.5/10

Jill: Michael Noer’s film Northwest is an inventive depiction of gangster lifestyle in Denmark. No steady cams were used due to the director’s priority to focus on the acting which completely intensifies the film’s energy. The entire film is shot from the point of view of the main character Casper, which provides insight as to what is important to him; we only see and experience what he sees and feels. This creates a deep connection with the viewer. Northwest’s rawness portrayed through brutally honest acting is the root of the power of the film. 8/10

Brooke: This film is terrifyingly surreal. Using actors that actually surround themselves in this “make money, get girls” kind of world seems rather bold and risky.  It certainly gives the viewer a glimpse into the actors’ reality.  While this film is low on the visual effects that make old school gangster movies thrilling, it is certainly a real taste of the modern gangster world whose inhabitants use sex and drugs to make a dollar.  Director Michael Noer even joked about how one of the actors stole the screenwriter’s iPhone at the end-of-shoot celebration. “I guess that is the price you pay for using non-trained actor,” he said to us, shrugging.  The blunt forwardness of Northwest is something to be appreciated both within the film and from the director. 7.5/10

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