Danish filmmaker Annette K. Olesen crafts a mash-up of short stories, united under one flag of the film’s main theme – what does trust mean in varying circumstances. The result is a portion of crisp bits that range from entertaining and absurd to tragic. No matter the tone played by Olesen, A Matter of Trust (2022) holds the fort.
Before director Annette K. Olesen sets the story in motion, the wise words of Vladimir Lenin fade into black – “Trust is good, but control is better.” What could possibly be a more timely quotation in the times when the post-USSR dream of conquering Europe revives in front of us. Well, the timing’s on point, and Olesen’s film, while far from discussing the current war, has a way of explaining the micro-scale of the abuse of trust. The abuse of trust takes many forms in all five stories developed within the film.
We follow a bunch of characters: a doctor (Trine Dyrholm) whose Hypocrean oath to act in good faith is put to a test when she’s part of a crew that transports immigrants back to Afghanistan; a man (Jakob Cedergren) who rents an Airbnb for a weekend, a couple that goes to a rather peculiar funeral; a mother (Ene Øster Bendtsen) that takes her daughter to at the beach; and a teenager (Emil Aron Dorph) whose world falls apart when a colleague shares his private parts photo with the rest of the kids. All stories entwine, creating a very well-structured composition with multiple threads and finales to follow.
As a whole, A Matter of Trust (2022) offers a variegated look at how the point of view defines the human perception of good and bad, of justifiable and unjustified, of ill-inspired and misfortunate. Each story captures the concept of trust, with some revealing the ugly truth of how easy it is to go beyond goodwill, while others show how lies deceive the intentions.
As is usually the case of constructs made from several shorts, the quality fluctuates. I consider myself a big fan of Scandinavian cinema for it often resorts to absurdism and awkwardness as a coping mechanism. For that reason, the story of the man who rents a beautiful mansion to spend an eventful weekend tops the competition. There’s bliss in its simple composition, particularly in the way the protagonist of this story sets a golden standard for himself at the beginning of the story, and then consecutively breaks it.
Olesen navigates between comedy and tragedy with swiftness and confidence.
One of the novels joins the #MeToo discussion, providing a saddening story about hope – naivete even – that’s savagely used as grounds for sexual harassment. Thanks to the world-class craft of Trine Dyrholm, the dangerous material concerning a doctor’s obligation to treatment at all costs becomes a philosophical treaty on the concept of borders and doing the right thing according to the widely accepted rules.
Whenever Olesen walks on thin ice, the ensemble cast grabs her hand and saves her from slipping into the icy water. Jakob Cedergren, Emil Aron Dorph, and Ene Øster Bendtsen deserve just as much praise as Dyrholm for their work. Each character in A Matter of Trust (2022) has a cement-made backbone written for it – a motivation for either a belief in their lies or in someone else’s lies. No accusation of far-fetched ideas and sloppily written narrative can be made.
Where the film might, however, raise doubts, is where this entire exercise leads us. Olesen departs with some nagging questions. If one of the characters decides to leave the stones unturned, though insincerity is not hard to detect in her counterpart, should we do the same in the name of love? Is it acceptable to come back to dine with your family after a day at work filled with morally ambiguous decisions? Where’s the boundary between love at all costs and hurting the ones you hold dear?
A Matter of Trust (2022) isn’t there to provide these answers. Yet in all of its miniature narratives, characters who embody Lenin’s wisdom clash against the white knights whose unshakable morals bring hope. Perhaps that’s the true power of Olesen’s film. Maybe it’s up to the viewer to draw the line and bear the consequences – whatever the answers shall be.
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