I loved the books, when I was younger. I haven’t read them since, and truth be told, I hardly remember them- except for the third book in the series, The Serpents Gift, because it introduced the awesome Sezuan. Still, seeing the movie poster hanging at the bus stops all over town, I realized that I was about to do something I have never done before. I was going to the cinema to see a Danish movie.
Yeah, that is right, it’s a Danish writer, and the movie is in Danish as well. Usually I am very unimpressed by Danish movies, but I adored the books enough to give this movie a chance.
So, first off, the scenery is so not Danish. It is stunning. That is what is the best part of this movie, actually. The nature shots. It is amazingly beautiful. Even the computer animated buildings doesn’t matter that much, it is actually quite nicely done. All in all, the picture is great, all the way through. Okay, the colour grading may not match exactly at all times, but that would be minor details and all in all, you are not bored, watching this movie.
I wasn’t as disappointed as I had prepared myself to be. It is still a good story, some nice little cosy fantasy, with a few dragons and a girl with a special talent, she didn’t ask for, and she doesn’t want to use. I was disappointed, however, about how they handled her special skill.
Dina is a shamer, which means that when she looks people in the eyes, she makes them see themselves and she makes them feel ashamed of all the things they have done wrong.
The way they played it in the movie, was way off, for my liking. The way she repeated “I can see you” in a voice over every time she looked at someone, was just annoying. It made an otherwise serious story, feel like a children’s tale. And the way she explained for the viewer what it was she saw in people, again in a voice over, felt pointless and only added to the feeling of this story suddenly becoming a movie for children, and not grownups. Which is a shame, because otherwise, it wasn’t a movie for kids. There was no comedy, no stupid goblins, it is not that kind of fantasy at all and the movie respected the universe perfectly. Except for that tiny little detail of how they handled the shamer’s ability. Which may not be such a tiny detail, come to think of it…
The acting was actually pretty good. Most of all, was I relieved that the movie avoided being a typical Danish movie with crude humour, blood and sex all over the place. Which is why I hardly ever bother to watch Danish movies. But this one, it did really good. No unnecessary blood, nothing crude or awkward.
Except for the dialog. I sat through the entire movie, wondering if it was because I wasn’t used to hearing Danish spoken out loud anymore. I mean, maybe our language sounds like that, after all? Flat, toneless, like it was being read from a script…
Truth is, where all the actors, children as well as adults, did a great job acting, using body language and facial expressions, not a single one of them could deliver a convincing line. Every time someone opened their mouth, it felt hollow, flat, passionless… Which for me, is really dragging an otherwise great movie down.
And yes, please don’t get me wrong. It IS a great movie. I mean, I have seen much, much worse. The Shamer’s Daughter is true to the book, it is fair to the universe, and the characters. It is serious fantasy, most of the time, and it is very well produced.
If only the actors could speak in front of a camera and sound like they meant it, I would probably not even have bothered picking holes in it. But now, because it did kind of annoy me, I have to mention the dragon at the end, that is set to eat Dina’s mother. How it is chained and being dragged towards her and how when they stop dragging it forward, it… stops?
So, what was holding the dragon back? Because I didn’t get that mechanism. To me it looked like the dragon could just go on ahead, and eat Dina’s mom, even if it wasn’t being dragged forward by the chain. What it couldn’t do, was go backwards, or sideways, into the audience, but forward?
Lazy dragon, doesn’t even bother to move unless it is dragged…
I’ll stop being mean now. Like I said, I am never a fan of Danish movies. This one is one of the best I have ever seen. If you ever liked the books, give it a chance.
And if you haven’t heard of the books, go read them. They are translated into English, all of them, and they are so worth a read, if you are into fantasy.