By Don Simpson | March 4, 2010
Director: Ole Christian Madsen
Writers: Lars Andersen, Ole Christian Madsen
Starring: Thure Lindhardt, Mads Mikkelsen, Stine Stengade, Peter Mygind, Mille Hoffmeyer Lehfeldt, Christian Berkel, Hanns Zischler, Claus Riis Ostergaard, Lars Mikkelsen, Flemming Enevold, Jesper Christensen
The place is Copenhagen, the year is 1944. Flame (Thure Lindhardt) and Citron’s (Mads Mikkelsen) moral compasses are spinning out of control as they go on a strategic killing spree of Danes who are collaborating with Nazis occupiers, then straight for the jugular of the Nazis themselves.
Citron begins the film as a family man; he is Flame’s sidekick, but he is literally just along for the drive (a stressful job nonetheless causing him to sweat profusely, drink heavily and gulp down pills to quell his nerves). However, it is not long before the lunacy of war takes hold of Citron and never ever lets him go. Even Flame, who is an unwavering killing machine (unless faced with the task of killing a woman) from the moment we are introduced to him, is not built for this brand of cold-blooded murder of unarmed targets caught totally unaware.
Flame and Citron have gone way too far, and the local Nazis under the command of Karl Heinz Hoffmann (Christian Berkel) have offered a significant bounty for their heads on a silver platter. There is no turning back at this point – either continue to kill Nazis or be killed by Nazis. Running away like a coward is not an option. Besides, the Nazis (who were nearing defeat, but still seem indestructible at this juncture) would more than likely track them down.
The resistance duo is only trying to be heroes, but it is not long before Flame and Citron begin to question their leaders’ motives. To confuse matters further, a gorgeous document courier – the femme fatale, if you may – Ketty (Stengade) appears on the playing board; her hair color (which alternates from blonde to brunette to blonde to brunette to blonde…) seems somehow related (but not directly) to whichever team she is working for at any moment in time. Ketty’s allegiance seems to shift with the wind – sometimes working for Flame and Citron’s boss – the Copenhagen police chief, Winther (Peter Mygind) – and other times she is caught palling around with the evil Hoffmann.
Flame & Citron raises a preponderance of questions concerning morality and guilt: With morals lost in the fog of war, when (if ever) can killing be justified? Where can that line be drawn and by whom? What if Flame and Citron were duped and their targets were actually innocent people? Are they at fault for abiding by orders from their superiors? Are they becoming more and more like their enemy? Besides, how different are Flame and Citron from the Nazis after all? In the end, will the resistance (and the proverbial free world) consider Flame and Citron to be heroes or villains?
The most expensive Danish film at the time it was made, Flame & Citron is a delicious and near-flawless WWII noir. There is the obvious (and admitted) influence that Jean-Pierre Melville’s Army of Shadows had on this film from former Dogme ’95 member, Ole Christian Madsen. I also notice some similarities to Paul Verhoeven’s Black Book (a much under-rated film in my book) which, like Flame & Citron, toys brilliantly with noirish conventions (from the femme fatale, to the blurring of allegiances and truths, to the preponderance of black – which in Flame & Citron accentuates Flame’s stunning red hair and everyone’s pale white skin) – Black Book also happens to deal with the resistance of Nazi occupation during WWII, so there’s that too.
The script by Madsen and Lars Andersen is based on the true story of two actual Danish resistance fighters.