OK, American History X meets Brokeback Mountain is perhaps a rather sweeping analogy, but in Danish drama Brotherhood, the world of Neo-Nazism – as seen in American History X – underpins a tale – not unlike Brokeback Mountain – in which two men unexpectedly fall in love while working together alone in a remote location.
Forced to leave the Danish army after an alleged indiscretion, and worn down by the disapproval of his critical parents, handsome blonde Lars (Thure Lindhardt) seeks refuge with some Danish nationalist friends, and is introduced to Fatty (Nicolas Bro) – the leader of a Neo-Nazi organisation which is, as you’d imagine, brutal, violent, racist and homophobic.
Initially turned off by the brotherhood’s mindless violence, Lars is reluctant to sign up. However, sharing their nationalist views and hatred towards immigrants, he’s eventually won round and tasked with helping Fatty’s deputy Jimmy (David Dencik) to renovate an isolated seaside property while swotting up to become an A-list member.
Lars embraces the challenge with enthusiasm and is soon bonding with Jimmy over pipe and gutter repairs. However, while Lars and Jimmy’s bonding is busy developing into full-on sexual passion, Fatty is busy celebrating Lars as a promising new recruit. And, it’s this development which builds brooding resentment with wannabe golden boy Patrick (Morten Holst) – Jimmy’s younger brother – who’s just waiting for an excuse to undermine his new rival.
Thanks to Nicolo Donato‘s skilled direction, the viewer will have little trouble sympathising with Lars and Jimmy when the pair find themselves caught between the tenderness and the terror of their situation. And that’s despite their bigoted views, despite their violent gang behaviour, and despite the massive swastika tattoo on Jimmy’s back.
It’s a tricky position to find oneself in – the impulse to feel sympathy for such hateful characters. However, it’s an interesting one. I dealt with my discomfort by trying to view these men as victims of circumstance – disenchanted individuals with limited world views, desperate for a meaningful sense of identity and sense of belonging who find what they crave in the cruel ideology of Neo-Nazism.
This film is a powerful and disturbing watch and credit must be given the stars for their strong, believable performances. But overall, it’s director Donato who must be commended – for the way his film ignites an uncomfortable internal battle in the viewer as it races to its inevitably grim conclusion.
Released by TLA Releasing on DVD on 13th June.
By the way, American History X is showing tomorrow – 14th June – on ITV4 at 12.35am