Teddy Bear turns the “emancipation movie” on its head. Most occasions, the one that wants emancipating is a girl. It’s attention-grabbing to see this most masculine-looking of males needing to “find himself”, too.
The first picture of Mads Matthiesen’s Danish quick movie, Dennis (2007), is that of a giant man, a extremely huge man, a hulk of a person sitting on his mattress. Dennis (Kim Kold) is a bodybuilder: 6’7 ft tall, 308 kilos of uncooked muscle energy. But on this opening second, he’s at his most susceptible. He has in his palms a chunk of paper with the cellphone variety of a girl named Patricia (Lykke Sand Michelsen). He desires to ask her out to dinner. When he calls her, he provides this bit: “I’ll pay, of course”!
Two issues make us really feel much more for Dennis, who’s a complete misfit exterior the confines of his gymnasium. First, the date. It goes fairly nicely, after which Patricia invitations him to a home occasion together with her buddies. When they study he’s an expert bodybuilder and that he’s making ready for the Danish championships, they ask him to take his shirt off and exhibit his muscle tissue. To be truthful, they in all probability don’t imply any hurt. They simply wish to see a bodybuilder strut his stuff. (It’s not one thing that occurs in your front room daily.) But there’s additionally the sense that they’re treating him like they’d deal with a male stripper.
The second side of Dennis’ life is much more pitiful. He lives together with his clingy mom, Ingrid (Elsebeth Steentoft). Even when he’s going to see Patricia, he says he’s going to a film together with his good friend Peter. “I’ll just eat roast pork on my own and play cards on my own,” the mom says, absolutely conscious of the guilt she’s inducing in Dennis. She had a foul marriage. Her husband was an alcoholic. Maybe she’s a type of individuals who really feel the world owes them one thing, even when she’s capable of get that one thing solely by the passive-aggressive manipulation of her son.
In Teddy Bear (2012), which premiered at Sundance and gained the World Cinema Directing Award: Dramatic, Mads Matthiesen expanded this premise to a full-length characteristic. The remaining picture of Dennis is that of Dennis crawling into mattress, subsequent to his mom, as if he have been somewhat boy who’d simply had a nightmare. An early scene in Teddy Bear expands on this picture. As Dennis takes a bathe, Ingrid comes into the lavatory and relieves herself. Clearly, boundaries are for the birds.
The plot will get going when Dennis and Ingrid attend the marriage celebration of Ingrid’s brother, who’s married a much-younger Thai girl. The stone-faced Danes barely appear able to hiding their disapproval, however the groom doesn’t care. Later, he tells Dennis that Asian ladies are much less judgemental and extra accepting. This sows a seed in Dennis’ head, and he heads off to Thailand. (Of course, he tells Ingrid that he’s off to Germany for a bodybuilding competitors.)
The mid-portion of this charming, underplayed movie tackles the query: How do you discover real love in a spot that’s so informal about free intercourse? As Dennis checks into his lodge, the receptionist asks him if he pays for “the girl” now. He is confused. What woman? The receptionist tells him: the woman he’s positive to deliver again to his room at evening. That’s going to value additional. So does he wish to pay for it now? The receptionist has seen so many international vacationers descend on her nation with simply this one factor on their minds, and he or she has no purpose to suppose Dennis is any completely different.
And the primary “girl” that he’s launched to thinks precisely the identical method. The set-up occurs due to a mediator who is aware of Dennis is on the lookout for love, however the woman thinks he simply desires intercourse. A little bit later, within the movie’s most touching scene, Dennis retreats to a gymnasium, which is the one place he actually is aware of, the one place that’s “home”. And there, all of the shyness he feels round ladies vanishes. He chats up one other bodybuilder. There’s not a hint of awkwardness. So doesn’t it make sense that the lady he does find yourself going out with, Toi (Lamaiporn Sangmanee Hougaard), occurs to be the widow of the person who owned this gymnasium?
Teddy Bear is a predictable movie, however what works (and what in all probability earned it the award for guiding) is the refreshing simplicity of the tone.
The movie is shot like an observational documentary. The colors are like these you’d get in a house video. Nothing appears to be like “staged”.
There aren’t any huge highs, no main lows. Is this a rom-com? I don’t suppose so. Made that method, Teddy Bear would deal with the romance. Here, it’s extra a couple of man making an attempt to interrupt freed from psychological shackles, each self-imposed and mother-instilled.
Dennis finally ends up inviting Toi to Denmark, and the place he places her up in a separate flat, as a result of he doesn’t need his mom to know he’s lastly getting himself a life. As sorry as we really feel for Dennis, I additionally felt for Toi. Here she is, in a brand new nation the place she doesn’t communicate the language and is aware of simply this one man, and he retains speeding again house so his mom doesn’t suppose something is completely different. Some of us could marvel why she doesn’t simply dump him and go away.
But because the director instructed Indiewire, Teddy Bear makes an attempt to painting the very completely different pathways love takes when two very completely different cultures meet. “In Thailand, love is about survival, especially in the poorer strata of society. A woman has to find a husband who can support the entire family, from children to grandparents. That is why poor girls from villages in the North of Thailand head for places like Pattaya. The main character Dennis travels to Pattaya on his quest for love. Pattaya is known for lonely richer western tourists seeking poor Thai women. And vice versa.”
It’s this conflict that the movie portrays so nicely, so unassumingly. (And it’s why the story wouldn’t have labored as nicely had Dennis undertaken an identical romantic quest in, say, Germany.) In a method, Teddy Bear turns the “emancipation movie” on its head. Most occasions, the one that wants emancipating is a girl. It’s attention-grabbing to see this most masculine-looking of males (Dennis) needing to “find himself”, too.
Teddy Bear is streaming on MUBI.
Baradwaj Rangan is Editor, Film Companion (South).
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