I am Dina is a Scandinavian film in all its effects. A costly fruit of a coproduction between Norway, Sweden and Denmark (with additional British and French financing), it’s based on a novel (Dina’s Book, 1989) by the Norwegian author Herbjorg Wassmo (born 1942), directed by the Dane Ole Bornedal who’s well known for his theatre work in Copenhagen, his activities for television (Prix Italia for Dybt Vand) and for his film-thriller Nattvagten (1995), of which he made a remake in Hollywood (Night watch, 1998). For I am Dina he co-wrote the script with the Swede Jonas Cornell.
It is, in other words, Ole Bornedal’s third film and the most recent example of a rich North European coproduction, shot in English, with an international cast (Scandinavian actors, but also British actors such as Christopher Eccleston or French as Gérard Depardieu) which – in spite of it all – is liberated from its cosmopolite formation by a powerful originality in its mis-en-scène and an unusual capacity of giving energy, rhythm and elliptical force to a complex narrative material through a very efficient direction of the actors.
The story – which takes place in northern Norway between 1860 and 1880 – rests on the personality of the principal character: a figure typically ‘bigger than life’, a mixture of Eros and Thanatos, cruelty and fragility, nature and culture. It is she, Dina, who determines the style, the rhythm, the directorial excesses of Bornedal – who at the same time knows how to depict an époque and a society with critical subtlety.
It would be easy – but also little generous – to find fault in his melodramatic extremes. Dina intellectually belongs to the family of Cathy, the heroine of Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë. There’s something more epic than romantic in her lust for life; in the passionate and dramatic vicissitudes of which she first is a victim and later a generator; in her existence which takes shape on the demarcation line between the world of the living and the realm of the dead unto the final catharsis.
© FIPRESCI 2003