The origins of the phrase “blood is thicker than water” can be traced back all the way to 12th century Germany. And while there is disagreement on the origin/true meaning of the phrase, colloquially it is understood as the idea that familial bonds will always trump those of profession and friendship. There is no truer representation of such than in Wildland. This psychodrama was rife with tension and a show-stopping cast and touches on many family and gender themes.
Ida (Sandra Guldberg Kampp), having recently lost her mom to a horrible car accident, has nowhere left to go. She is sent to live with her aunt Bodil (Sidse Babett Knudsen) (who Ida has not seen since early childhood) and three cousins. Ida quickly notes the family’s dysfunctional nature and senses there could be a more sinister nature to the family business than meets the eye.
Wildland is a slow burn from start to finish. There is a lot of introduction and exposition happens fairly slowly. The result is an unrelentingly tense atmosphere. I felt myself constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop and for real overt conflict to start. The film clocks in at about 89 minutes and it takes about half that time for the conflict to really pick up, but it is definitely worth the wait.
Ingeborg Topsoe produced a strong script with rich complex characters. My only complaint is that there are several moments that appear important, but lead nowhere. The strained relationship between Ida’s mother and Ida’s aunt Bodil is touched on but never explored. Off-color comments made to Ida by her cousin Mads suggest there will be an additional layer of tension between the two characters in an already complicated family dynamic, but this also is just an isolated incident, and not integrating it into the rest of the story was a disappointment.
Sandra Guldberg Kampp was captivating in her role as Ida. She delicately balanced Ida’s strength with a sort of fragility that will fill audiences with sympathy and surprise. Surrounding Kampp is a standout cast that brings this dysfunctional family to life. Knudsen is a matriarchal force to be reckoned with. Joachim Fjelstrup, Elliott Crosset Hove, and Besir Zeciri are outstanding as brothers Jonas, David, and Mads, respectively. Their chemistry highlights the very different personalities of each brother and showcases their contribution to this family’s maladjustments.
The underlying themes in Wildlandare its strength. Gender roles as it relates to family and criminal enterprise are front and center. Along with gender normative behavior in full force, the dynamics of family dysfunction are prominently displayed. Guilt trips and manipulation come together to form one deadly combination. My only wish is that some of these themes were given more attention rather than subtly operating in the background.
Overall, Wildland has a lot to offer. A dark and compelling story, a crowd-pleasing cast, and plenty of atmospheric tension. With so many strengths the film’s shortcomings fade into obscurity, making Wildland definitely worth the watch.
7 out of 10