Thanks to digital cable and ever-expanding flat-panel TV screens, video-on-demand pay-per-view may soon replace the art house as the standard distribution outlet for independent and foreign films. Unfortunately, Denmark’s Fear Me Not, released June 10 via the Independent Film Channel’s VOD service, showcases only the medium’s potential as an indie dumping ground. The drying-paint-paced drama, which chronicles Mikael’s ambiguous addiction to an experimental antidepressant, is probably better than a direct-to-DVD Disney sequel, but anybody who claims this film is complex or intelligent isn’t looking past the subtitles. They’d probably be equally impressed with a Danish-dubbed Lifetime original movie.
And that’s what the film, for all its pensive Nordic silences and Neil Young covers, most resembles . Fear Me Not begins with a landscape shot of a beautiful lake. Mikael stands glaring into it from the deck behind his modern dream home, bitching in voice-over about the disappointment he feels at the way his life’s turned out. Nice to know pouty rich dickheads aren’t exclusively American. Mik registers on the douche-dar immediately, but the film’s opening act is deceptively promising for viewers expecting a horror film with slow-creeping un-American timing.
The problem isn’t the build-up, though we’re never given reason to see Mikael as anything but a whiny, Sting-resembling Scandanavian shitbird. While we’re half-interestedly watching Mik drive his daughter to school, host a dinner party with his wife, and row a boat with his brother-in-law, Levring is subtly developing characters, defining relationships, and even building a little suspense. Mikael’s psychiatrist brother-in-law, Frederik (Brygmann), is conducting research on a new antidepressant, and Mik, his heart full of the pain that apparently only Danish lakehouse owners can know, volunteers. When subjects begin acting violent, the test is aborted, but Mik, who claims to’ve never been better, continues self-medicating, unsure of the results. The film’s slow boil bubbles when Mik hides away from his family to monitor his condition, but after a few false alarms it’s apparent that Levring doesn’t have anything to cook. The film just cools back to room temperature and leaves you wishing you’d ordered from the Spice channel instead.