One of the reasons why I write the VOD Overdose column here at Movie Buzzers is because I love how video-on-demand enables those of us who love film to see great movies we would otherwise be unable to see. For example, take Beast, a Danish film from writer/director Christoffer Boe that was originally released in late 2011. Though it bounced around Europe and some film festivals, it never got a proper U.S. release. Thankfully, a new VOD distributor focused on releasing international films, Under the Milky Way, has released Beast on iTunes. Beast falls in the category of the exact type of film that wouldn’t become an international phenomenon because of its low-budget nature, but fans of low-budget thrillers will definitely want to check it out.
The opening scene of Beast shows Bruno (Nicolas Bro) and Maxine (Marijana Jankovic), a young married couple, finding their first apartment together. Though seemingly very much in love, one odd moment during this sequence is that Maxine cuts her finger on an old nail and Bruno sucks the blood. After the credits we jump to their lives some unspecified time later in the winter (both literally and figuratively), which reveals their marriage to be a toxic one. Maxine seems to care little for Bruno, probably because Bruno alternates between downright nasty and highly obsessive about her. Bruno develops a beast-like obsession with getting “inside” Maxine to understand her better (often referring to when he sucked her blood and got “inside” him), perhaps because he realizes that she no longer loves him. He secretly arranges to have Maxine meet with their friend Valdemar (Nikolaj Lie Kaas) at a hotel room, but Bruno isn’t prepared to handle his own reaction to the possibilities to what occurs within that room. He soon becomes both physically and mentally sick over Maxine, and what follows is anything but predictable as he becomes destructive in his feelings toward her.
Though the film has a cerebral plot, there is a lot that you have to suspend in order to accept the narrative (such as Maxine and Valdemar both realizing they were set up at the hotel by an unknown person, but not doing much of anything to figure out who that was or being much concerned about it). If you can do that, there’s an incredible amount to like about this effective film. Hollywood production would’ve absolutely ruined this story with unnecessary bells and whistles, while Boe has written and directed a film that conducts itself like a stage play with its limited characters and scenes (though only film could portray the more squeamish scenes). The suspense leads to unexpected twists, especially since there are heavy doses of foreshadowing that doesn’t play out as suggested.
Bro, who plays Bruno, is probably best known to American audiences for his role in War Horse, but here he is exactly the type of intellectual creep that you wouldn’t want to spend more than a few minutes with — which is why it’s obvious Maxine falls out of love with him. There are plenty of questions the movie raises though that don’t get answered — like what did the beautiful, happy Maxine see in the husky, demanding Bruno in the first place? What does Bruno hope to achieve by his ill-treatment of Maxine? And perhaps most importantly, what is going on with the film’s core concept of getting “inside” someone? The film doesn’t answer these questions, and your enjoyment of it perhaps depends on how much you enjoy films that leave questions that will linger with you afterward.
RATING: A cerebral, and sometimes disturbing, low-budget thriller, Beast fascinates with its focus on the ugly, obsessive side of mental obsession and love (7/10).
For more information on Under the Milky Way check out the company’s Facebook page here!