Monday, October 19, 2009

The Inheritance: Grade A

The Inheritance (2003)
Ulrich Thomsen, Lisa Werlinder; Co-writer and director Per Fly (Swedish and French, subtitled)

Christoffer (Thomsen) is the son of a wealthy steel tycoon in Sweden. He has left the family firm to pursue his dream of building a restaurant business in Stockholm. He has the support and love of his actor-girlfriend Maria (Werlinder). But when his father dies, his mother urges him to take the lead at the steel company, as a crucial merger with a French firm is in the works. The mother insists that the younger brother, Ulric, is not competent to lead. Against his better judgment, and against the wishes of Maria, Christoffer takes the helm. He quickly finds that the company is in dire straits and that severe action is needed, like massive layoffs. He is required to become cold-blooded, which he does, but Maria leaves him. It’s the story of the human cost of modern capitalism.

The internal structure of the story has much in common with The Godfather, I thought, including the betrayal by the younger brother, the “whacking” of close associates, and so forth. (No actual whacking. This is a character study, not a mobster tale, but many of the moves are similar). Christoffer’s ambitious mother takes the Vito Corleone role, while Werlinder plays Diane Keaton’s part. Not to make too much of that analogy, because this is a completely different film, but the family dynamics are just as dramatic. Acting is uniformly strong, sets are excellent, directing is deft (although a little slow for my preference), and photography is compelling. Plus, as a bonus, it makes you think. How much is business success worth? Your whole life? Maybe so, if you have nothing else going for you.

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