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    In Your Hands

    Convictions, tested

    Supernatural happenings in the middle of a women's prison raise the possibility that God or his opposite is testing people's beliefs in the earnest Danish drama "In Your Hands."


    One critic reviewing last year's "Open Hearts" declared he had "reached the point of diminishing returns" with the Dogme 95 movement, in all its jerky-camera, grainy-picture, faux-documentary-ish glory. "In Your Hands" is the 34th film produced under Dogme's dogma, and it shows how wrong that attitude can be. The movement — which forswears all things artificial in film, from special effects to lighting to sound dubbing to props to music — also includes one commandment that's about concept rather than technique: "Genre movies are not acceptable." Maybe this is the most important commandment of all, because it means that many Dogme films may look similar but no two are ever alike.

    Original title: Forbrydelser.
    Directed by: Annette K. Olesen.
    Written by: Kim Fupz Aakeson, Annette K. Olesen.
    Cast: Petrine Agger, Jens Albinus, Sarah Boberg, Trine Dyrholm, Benedikte Hansen, Helle Hertz, Ann Eleonora J¿rgensen, Nicolaj Kopernikus, Lisbet Lundquist, Kirsten Olesen, Mette Munk Plum, Henrik Prip, Lars Ranthe, Sonja Richter.
    Cinematography: Boje Lomholdt.
    Edited by: Molly Marlene StensgŒrd.
    In Danish with English subtitles.

    Related links: Official site
    Walter Reade Theater Lincoln Center, 65th St. between Broadway and Amsterdam (212) 875-5600

    New Directors New Films 2004
  • Overview
  • Checkpoint
  • Eager Bodies
  • In Your Hands
  • Le Monde Vivant
  • Silent Waters
  • Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter ... and Spring
  • The Story of the Weeping Camel
  • Three Step Dancing
  • Vodka Lemon

  • Official festival site
  • Festival Internacional de Cine Contemporaneo
    (Mexico City)
    Bus 174
    Haute Tension
    In Your Hands
       Memories of Murder
    Notre Musique
    Or (My Treasure)
    Triple Agent
    Vera Drake

    • Official site
    "In Your Hands" does come sinfully close to a certain genre — the women's prison drama. But it's no "Reform School Girls." It is a multidimensional, rather philosophical story that also challenges us to think about religion, abortion, love and humanity.

    Two very different women are at the center of the story. Anna is a newly ordained priest who requests an assignment to the nearby women's prison. (This being Denmark, it looks like a prison for tall, blonde former models, but that's happenstance.) She's a fairly uninspired priest, by the looks of it, reading Bible passages in a dull monotone and leading her flock in passionless psalms. Kate is a new arrival too, and her fellow inmates begin to sense that there's something unusual about her. She seems to work miracles. Or at least one specific miracle: her fellow inmates who are kicking drugs come to her for help and almost immediately shed their addiction. As lackluster a Christian faith as the minister Anna seems to possess, Kate seems to be equally filled with the spirit of the lord without professing any belief at all.

    Prison guards say they've seen this kind of collective delusion before. "We don't call them miracles but speed psychoses," one of them tells Anna dismissively, and she comes to believe it too. "It's sad," she tells her boyfriend. "They're so wretched and they think a magic wand will solve their problems."

    Still, Anna can hardly dismiss the strange aura surrounding the new woman. When she offers her counsel, Kate snaps back, "You just worry about the baby inside you." Anna insists she's not pregnant — in fact, she's been diagnosed as infertile — but it's not as much of a surprise to us as it is to her when she learns that she is.

    Complications soon take hold, both in the prison and in the womb. A schism opens up between those who believe Kate has some kind of miracle-working connection to God and others who resent her or sense her danger. Anna — whose religion is of the go to church, read from a book and go home variety — is put out by the possibility of God's actual arrival in her little bailiwick. But when a genetic test indicates that her baby has a risk of a genetic birth defect, the challenge to her beliefs has truly hit home. The doctor gives the expectant couple options and percentages; meanwhile, the rumors about Kate give Anna another source of hope, if she's willing to believe.

    You could call this complex story an obvious setup to test your beliefs about abortion, but the film doesn't require you to feel a certain way — it just presents a dilemma in strikingly human terms. And although filmmaker Annette K. Olesen probably does want us to be uncomfortable with the abortion option, her film isn't a tenth as one-sided and manipulative as "The Cider House Rules." It does imbue the issue with a sense of personal conflict and a hint of mystery, a sense of the unknowable and the unresolvable.

    And it's also in keeping with the best characteristics of the Dogma film movement. In talented hands, a film that doesn't rely on artificial techniques is forced to put its characters front-and-center, and the basics of a good script and good acting become paramount. "In Your Hands" has both, and it draws us into its earnest moral puzzle with engaging drama.

    MARCH 29, 2004

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