"Fire and Ice" is the theme of the Fifth Annual Nordic Lights Film Festival. It's an idea expressed in drama as roiling passions beneath cool outward appearances, in documentary as the chilly reception given to society's outsiders, and in comedy as dark, sarcastic humor about rural village life.
The program includes a dozen new and recently released feature films from Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden, as well as short films, talks and panel discussions. The mission of this year's edition is to take northern nations off their pedestal, said festival organizer Kari Lie Dorer, who teaches Nordic film at St. Olaf College.
"People think of them as the happiest countries in the world because of the welfare state," she said. "They have so much oil money. Norway just won so many medals at the Olympics and it's such a small country. The Nordic community really latches onto that."
Denmark's controversial Oscar nominee "The Hunt," starring Mads Mikkelsen, is a disturbing portrait of a tight-knit community torn apart when a longtime resident is accused of child abuse. The suburban town's families bare their secrets as suspicion and scapegoating turn to violence. Six-year-old Annika Wedderkopp is stellar as the girl at the center of the scandal.
"Kon-Tiki," the ocean adventure that played here in its English-language version, will be presented in its simultaneously shot Norwegian form. The film finds much to admire and to criticize in the character of Thor Heyerdahl, played by Pål Sverre Hagen with equal heroism and recklessness. The film landed directors Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg an enviable new assignment, helming Disney's next "Pirates of the Caribbean" blockbuster.
Another Danish entry, "A Royal Affair," combines costume-drama romance, court intrigue and blood-soaked 18th-century history. Mikkelsen this time portrays Dr. Johann Struensee, the German court physician to mad king Christian VII of Denmark. The healer used his influence on the monarch to introduce radical Enlightenment reforms on the corrupt monarchy. But he overstepped his position and threatened his political initiatives by becoming the queen's lover.
Other films explore the impact of Iceland's Eyjafjallajökull volcanic eruption of 2010; dramatize the hypocrisy of Swedish politicians using call girls while championing women's rights, and celebrate Finland's Sámi culture.
The festival runs Friday through March 6 at St. Anthony Main Theatre, 115 SE. Main St., Minneapolis. For details and ticketing, go to mspfilmsociety.org