Director: Charlotte Sieling | 94 minutes | drama | Actors: Jakob Oftebro, Ane Dahl Torp, Søren Malling, Søren Pilmark, Sus Wilkins, Anna Linhartová, Thomas Hwan, Jana Krausová, Jessica Dinnage, Simon Bennebjerg, Marie-Lydie Melone Nokouda, Elias Bauer, Evrim Benli
The fine arts remain a rewarding subject for documentary or feature film. In 2017, for example, we saw biographies about Rodin (“Rodin”) and Giacometti (“Final Portrait”) and a tantalizing satire about the modern art world (“The Square”). Also from 2017 is the Danish film “Mesteren”, a drama about an artist and his son. No biography this time and no satire either. But what is “Mesteren”?
The mesteren (master) from the title is called Simon Brahe. He is a widely respected artist who lives and works in Copenhagen. In his studio he works with students on his art, while his second wife Darling runs the empire. Everything goes smoothly, until one day Casper is at the door of the studio. Casper is Simon’s disgraced son from his first marriage. It soon turns out that Casper has at least as much talent as father dear. That creates tensions.
“Mesteren” is a generation drama, where a father has to accept that every generation has to pass the baton sooner or later. That this takes place in the self-righteous and vain world of art seems like a smart move. Unfortunately Simon lives up to all the clichés of the arrived artist. He always walks around in trendy pajamas and sees the world through glasses that are way too casual. He uses a handsome apprentice as a mistress and he looks more like a businessman than a passionate artist.
What lies beneath that layer is less clear, any more than it becomes clear to us what is going on with his son Casper. Wife Darling comes closest to an elaborated character, but she is just a little less interesting. The art world itself is never presented nicely here either. The film lacks the broad scope, depth and satirical sharpness of “The Square”. Narrative there is not much to get, moreover, some scenes are too focused on effect and lack any logic.
All in all, “Mesteren” is not a great contribution to the canon of artist film. The actors are all fine, there is some nice music and the studio looks attractive and authentic. Moreover, we learn that you cannot only smoke before or after sex. But a film without a good story, in-depth characters or good humor is missing too much in this case. Art with a little k then.