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Ulrich Thomsen, Lis Werlinder. A powerful drama depicting the destruction of the life of a happily married restauranteur living in Stockholm. When his father commits suicide, his manipulative mother forces him to return home to take control of the family's floundering steel business-a business he had abandoned years earlier. 2003/color/115 min/NR.
Startling in its blunt portrait of a man who fears he will lose his humanity by assuming control of a family business--and who then goes on to lose precisely that--The Inheritance won six Danish Academy Awards, including one for writer-director Per Fly. The second in an ambitious trilogy about class struggles planned by Fly, The Inheritance stars Ulrich Thomsen as Christoffer, a successful restaurateur living happily with a beautiful actress, Maria (Lisa Werlinder). Having fled responsibility for helping run his family's steel business--a miserable time for Christoffer that cost him his health and self-respect--the happy hero finds himself squeezed by his manipulative mother (Ghita Norby) into becoming CEO following his father's suicide. In short order, Christoffer finds himself doing everything he considers despicable: firing loyal employees, jockeying for greater power, forcing out other family members. Fly's somber, low-key storytelling doesn't have to drive home the slow drama of Christoffer's moral and ethical deconstruction. It's a compelling if painful thing to behold, and Thomsen's performance as a man who gets away from himself is something to see. --Tom Keogh
- Director commentary
- "Making-of" Documentary (55 minutes)
- Essay by film critic Richard Schickel
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In the nearby country of Sweden Christoffer has sought a personal refuge from family and family company. He has succeed in establishing himself in the competitive Stockholm restaurant market and he is about to diversify himself through his profits in another restaurant. Everything seems to fall in place for him, as his love life with Maria (Lisa Werlinder )is even growing stronger than his professional life. Maria's career is also blooming, as she reveals that she has been offered an annual contract with the Royal Theater in Stockholm, including a part as Juliet in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. It seems as if nothing in the world could touch their happiness. When Christoffer's father, Aksel (Ulf Pilgaard) arrives unannounced he is ecstatic to share with him about their happiness and success. However, this unbreakable bubble of joy slowly begins to fade away when Christoffer finds out that his father has hanged himself shortly after his visit.
The news of his father's death forces him to leave Stockholm at once in order to arrange the funeral and all of the details around the family business. Here the audience could possibly recognize the parallel to Hamlet. When Christoffer arrives his mother quickly informs him that he is needed in Denmark, and that he is to take over the family steel company. It also seems that Aksel hid a large negative balance and the banks are getting restless with his death. Amidst the family crisis the company also faces dark financial times that will force them to lay off at least hundred employees and find a company to merge with in order to maintain strong on the highly competitive steel market. Christoffer also has to take into account that Maria has a life in Stockholm with a thriving career and he has taken the position that was understood that his brother-in-law, Ulrik (Lars Brygmann) should have. Whatever Christoffer's decision is it will hurt someone, as he finds himself in a troubling crossroads of his life where his decision will make strong ripples throughout his life and those near to him.
The fascination with the story rests within Christoffer's choice and how he tries to keep things together while slowly drifting into a personally miserably state. Fly creates an atmosphere where the protagonist is selfish and unselfish at the same time, as he drifts into a cerebral confusion where he wanders aimlessly in order to please them all. In the process of helping others, he gets himself lost where his misery induces a more depressive tone to his life, which he begins to accept. All of this is possible through a brilliant performance from an outstanding and a rather unknown cast on this side of the Atlantic. In addition, Fly illustrates his eye for details, as the mise-en-scene embraces the characters in a pragmatic, yet artistic manner where everything that needs to be framed within the shot exists. Cumulatively, those who find themselves engrossed in this poignant drama will discover Christoffer's transformation radiantly tragic, as the human drama reaches its pinnacle.
"The Inheritance" follows the life and choices of Christoffer, a young Danish entrepreneur who has successfully opened a thriving restaurant in Stockholm. He is blissfully happy and deeply in love with his stunning actress wife, Maria. His business is flourishing, his wife's career is receiving recognition and offers, and he seems to have everything anyone could want. Then he receives a call that his steel magnate father has committed suicide, the family business is about to fail, and he is asked to return to Denmark, save it, and take control.
Christoffer fled Denmark some years earlier when he resigned from a disastrous career in that same family company. Where do his loyalties lie--to his wife and their happy arrangement in Stockholm, or to the hundreds of employees and family members dependent on his business acumen in Denmark? Can he make that life work? Should he just stay in Stockholm?
It is a story beautifully portrayed that touches one's inner core, a theme that is timeless and universal.