The Day Will Come – Der dommer en dag (2016)
Directed by: Jesper W. Nielsen | 120 minutes | drama | Actors: Lars Mikkelsen, Sofie Gråbøl, Harald Kaiser Hermann, Albert Rudbeck Lindhardt, Laurids Skovgaard Andersen, Lars Ranthe, Søren Sætter-Lassen, David Dencik, Sonja Richter, Solbjørg Højfeldt, Claus Maack Bahnsen, Martin Hempel Barkholt, Jakob Oskar Barkholt B. Engmann, Frede Frimand
Orphanages and boarding schools must be almost hell on earth. At least, if your frame of reference does not extend beyond the film world, you can’t help but draw that conclusion. With the surprising and pleasant exception of ‘Ma vie de Courgette’ (2016), in which the misery takes place just outside the walls of the boarding school, all orphanages are the territories of sadistic power-hungry people who impose their will on defenseless and vulnerable children with a heavy hand. The latest shoot on the tree is ‘The Day Will Come’ (2016), a Danish drama directed by Jesper W. Nielsen (‘Borgen’). The story is based on the testimonies of mistreatment and abuse in no fewer than nineteen Danish youth institutions in the 1960s, including the Godhavn Institute, which symbolized the Gudbjerg orphanage where the film is set. The boys who end up here are subjected to all forms of abuse: there are teachers with loose hands, a night watchman with pedophile tendencies, the boys are regularly pitted against each other and the director (Lars Mikkelsen) rules with an iron hand and does not shy away from it. blow back yourself from the parts. Not the ideal place for a carefree childhood, shall we say. Every form of zest for life, self-confidence and belief in humanity and itself is brutally beaten out of these delicate souls.
Poor Erik (Albert Rudbeck Lindhardt) and Elmer (Harald Kaiser Hermann). Because their mother (Sonja Richter) is seriously ill and can no longer care for them – their father hanged himself a few years earlier – the brothers are sent to the Gudbjerg Institute in the Danish countryside. The days when they could play pranks are definitely over. Anyone who even with a small toe out of step is immediately corrected with a heavy hand. Erik, the eldest of the two brothers, has not caught his eye and has difficulty adapting to director Heck’s regime. His brother Elmer, a boy with a rich imagination but hindered by a club foot, has a hard time because of his disability. His dream of becoming an astronaut is met with laughter and a beating: how dare he speak so much nonsense?! The only teacher to keep her hands to herself is newcomer Lillian Hammersköj (Sofie Gråbøl from ‘The Killing’), who watches with sorrow as the boys are mistreated, but is afraid to take action. What keeps Elmer and Erik going is the knowledge that they can go home once their mother is better. But that day is very long in coming… Until one day that dreaded phone call comes: Mother has passed away and their whistling uncle (Paw Henriksen) is unable to take care of the boys. Due to the frustrations that have arisen, things in the orphanage get seriously out of hand. Erik and Elmer fear that they will be doomed to the reign of terror of Heck and his associates for days to come.
Movies like this one often follow the same line: the situation in the orphanage keeps getting worse, until there is no prospect of a rosy ending. Every ray of hope for a better life is brutally crushed, until eventually (usually) a lifebuoy arrives, at least for some of the victims. ‘The Day Will Come’ – original title ‘Der kommer en dag’ – also follows that classic line. What distinguishes the film most strikingly is that the developments surrounding the boys are mirrored in the ‘Space Race’, the journey of the Apollo 11 to the moon, which was in full swing in the late 1960s. Dreamer Elmer is initially thought to be crazy when he says that trips to the moon are possible in the not too distant future; his fascination with space travel takes a few weird leaps towards the end, when the boy in a self-made astronaut suit climbs into a tower to reach for the moon – in the ultimate desperate attempt to escape his plight. There Nielsen and screenwriter Søren Sveistrup go off the rails, but otherwise ‘The Day Will Come’ is a meticulously crafted drama with strong acting performances by Lars Mikkelsen in particular (who is a caricatured character on paper, with only a few glances, traces of humanity) and the very young Harald Kaiser Hermann, who manages to capture the bitter misery as well as the childlike innocence and fantasy at a glance.
‘The Day Will Come’ is confrontational and oppressive and it is all the more poignant that the story is based on true events. Although the film follows a familiar route, the parallel drawn with the developments in space travel offers an opportunity to distinguish itself from other films in this genre. The rock-solid production and great acting cannot hide the fact that some boards are missed at the end. Nevertheless, a fine example of craftsmanship from Denmark.