Few movies can keep the value they rightfully gained after being renamed in another language. The 83rd Academy Award Winner for Foreign Language Film, Hævnen (meaning ‘the revenge’) tells a story depicting parallel lives with completely different -but yet undeniably similar in subtext- societies and cultures under the idea of humanity. International name for the movie ‘In a Better World’ sounds more fitting at the end of the day, considering the hopeful message the movie delivers. Well, aims to do so, at least.
Hævnen starts with a Danish doctor arriving Africa to help villagers get through the brutality of a local villain. The only thing they can do is to put a band-aid on the bruises the villain leaves. Next, we get introduced with Christian, brilliantly played by William Jøhnk Juel Nielsen, dealing with the loss of a parent and being transferred to a brand new school in Denmark from the UK. When Christian witnesses his new desk mate Elias getting bullied, he can not help but take him under his wings right away since the school ministry remains silent to keep the avoid such bad reputation. Friendly, but unhealthy bond between these two damaged kids helps the audience question the consequences of ways in punishment when encountered ongoing violence. Doing so at an early age differs from how one deals with it as a grown up.
‘One of the differences between children and grown ups is that children have a black and white view of the world.’ says director Susanne Bier when asked about seeing the world through the perspective of children. During the course of the film, children have more complexed, but also more compassionated view while the parents learn a lot from the results of the revenge as an act the kids show against the bullies.
The importance of showing mercy for the common good is distinctly emphasized in this astonishing, meticulously told and played story. The ones that are shown mercy to might not be confronting a dilemma, they basically may not get it then. Sooner or later, they would do. Anyone does. In the end, ‘Violence incites violence. And when the powerful use their position to bully others, we all lose.’ as put by Meryl Streep.