Written and directed by Nicolas Winding Refn, Bleeder is the story of a young couple whose life is changed when a man learns his wife is pregnant as she is bewildered by his sudden dark behavior. The film is an exploration into the transition of adulthood told in a dark fashion as it plays to Refn’s interest in the world of detachment. Starring Kim Bodnia, Mads Mikkelsen, Rikke Louise Andersson, Liv Corfixen, Levino Jensen, and Zlatko Buric. Bleeder is a wonderfully stylish drama from Nicolas Winding Refn.
After receiving news that his girlfriend Louise (Rikke Louise Andersson) is pregnant, Leo (Kim Bodnia) is shocked by the news and the arrival of a new baby as he’s unsure if he wants a child. While Louise’s brother Louis (Levino Jensen) is ecstatic about the news and hope Leo will do go, an event where the two were working at a club leaves Leo shaken by the violent incident. While Leo and Louis also spend their time watching movies at a video store with their friends Kitjo (Zlatko Buric) and the shy film buff Lenny (Mads Mikkelsen) who works at the video store with Kitjo. Lenny’s anti-social life starts to change when he meets and falls for a girl named Lea (Liv Corfixen) who works at a diner as he tries to talk to her but couldn’t muster the courage to make a date with her.
During one night where the four guys watch a film, Leo brings a gun to the screening to threaten Louis over a dispute concerning Louise. Leo’s behavior suddenly starts to unravel as he takes it out on Louise prompting Louis to do something. Notably as it would cause a lot of trouble for Leo who becomes consumed with guilt where he would do something that would change everything in his troubled life.
The film is about the life of a man that is about to change due to the fact that he’s going to become a father. Unfortunately, he isn’t ready because of all the anxieties he’s facing about becoming an adult and handle the responsibility to deal with a child. Notably as an incident where he works as a bouncer at a club leaves him shaken about the world he’s about to enter his child in where would eventually unravel and scare his friends including his girlfriend’s brother who is later to be revealed as a more troubling person to deal with.
Nicolas Winding Refn’s screenplay is intriguing for the way he explores the world of young adulthood in Copenhagen as it features five characters who are quite young with another in his 40s. Though the narrative is uneven due to the subplot of a socially-awkward film buff who falls for a book-loving woman who works at a diner which is a bit comical. It does make the film also uneven in its tone though it is still a very engaging story as it fits to the theme that Refn wants to explore.
Refn’s direction is definitely stylish from the opening montage to introduce the characters to the wandering hand-held tracking shots he creates to explore the video store. While the film is presented in a straightforward manner in terms of its drama with some style added in the compositions that Refn creates. The film does have an air of darkness in the main narrative from the club break-in scene to the more chilling moment in the film’s third act when Louis confronts Leo in one of the most disturbing moments in film. Some of the darker moments of the film does have compositions that are quite striking while Refn does maintain the focus on the anxieties men have in the transition to adulthood. Despite the uneven narrative, Refn does create a solid film that is exciting but also unsettling.
Cinematographer Morten Soborg does excellent work with the film‘s very colorful photography to play out the exciting world of late 90s young adult culture while creating some stylish lights for some of the film‘s interiors such as the club, the bookstore Lea hangs out at, and the room where the guys watch the movies. Editor Anne Osterud does incredible work with the editing to play up the rhythm of the some of the film‘s violent scenes with some swift cuts to more stylish cuts such as dissolves and jump-cuts to play with the film‘s transitions.
Production designer Peter De Neergard does wonderful work with some of the places in the such as the video store Lenny and Kitjo work at to the diner‘s kitchen that Lea is often at. Costume designer Loa Miller does very good work with the costumes as a lot of it is quite casual with the exception of some of the stylish suits the men wear during their movie night. Sound designer Svenn Jakobsen is terrific for the some of the intimacy set in some of the interior locations to more tense moments in the club fight that Leo witnesses. The film’s score by Peter Peter is a superb mix of chugging hard rock, metal, dream-pop, electronic music, and ambient as the soundtrack plays to the personalities of these characters as it includes a great dream-pop cover of John Lennon’s Love that is played in the film’s final credits.
The film’s cast is brilliant for the ensemble that is created as it includes some memorable small performances from Ole Abildgaard as a video store customer, Gordana Radosavljevic as a mother Louise befriends, and Clause Flygare as Lea’s diner boss Joe. Zlatko Buric is very funny as the wise and laid-back Kitjo while Liv Corfixen is wonderful as the bookworm Lea who is intrigued by Lenny’s strange behavior. Rikke Louise Andersson is excellent as Leo’s kind girlfriend Louise who is baffled by his sudden behavior as she is trying to help him make changes. Levino Jensen is superb as Louise’s brother Louis who is concerned about Leo’s behavior while proving to be someone who will get serious if things go wrong.
Kim Bodnia is great as the troubled Leo who is dealing with all of the new changes around him as he brings a real intensity to his character that is teetering on the edge. Finally, there’s Mads Mikkelsen in an impressive performance as the shy film buff Lenny who always talks about films just so he can avoid talking about real life. There’s also a wonderful restraint in Mikkelsen in the way he displays the awkwardness of his character as it’s definitely a performance to see.
Bleeder is a stellar drama from Nicolas Winding Refn that features incredible performances from Kim Bodnia and Nicolas Winding Refn. While it’s a very different film of sorts from some of the more violent films that Refn has done. It’s also quite engaging for the way he presents life in transition despite the uneven narrative it presents. In the end, Bleeder is a charming though dark film from Nicolas Winding Refn.
Nicolas Winding Refn Films: Pusher - Fear X - Pusher II - Pusher 3 - Bronson - Valhalla Rising - Drive - Only God Forgives - The Neon Demon - The Auteurs #12: Nicolas Winding Refn
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