Everything is going well for Christoffer and Maria, a recently married couple living in Stockholm. Christoffer (Ulrich Thomsen) is the owner of a successful restaurant and is about to expand the business by opening another in a prime location. His wife Maria (Lisa Werlinder) is drawing acclaim on the stage for her performances in Shakespearean roles and has been offered an extended contract by the theatre company. Together they live in a beautiful apartment only a few minutes from both the theatre and the restaurant. Everything changes however when Christoffer’s father dies and his mother insists that he return to Denmark and take over the family business, the Borch Møller Steel company.
The acceptance of his inheritance will mean a major upheaval for Christoffer and his family, since he had already abandoned any desire to follow into the family business, leaving 4 years previously and leaving the running of the company in the hands of his brother-in-law, Ulrik (Lars Brygmann). Despite Ulrik’s 15 years of experience, the family inexplicably want the inexperienced and unproven Christoffer to take over the company and turn around the deficit it has been running in recent years. Understandably, the bank are also far from convinced of his capabilities, so the new manager needs to make a show of strength and make some dramatic changes and lay-offs. If the reasons behind the family wanting Cristoffer to take over are unclear, similarly, the case for Christoffer and Maria agreeing to put their dream life and careers in Sweden on-hold for the grim industrial business dealings in Denmark is never convincingly made.
Filmed in shaky, hand-held digital-video, there is however a certain sense of authenticity and realism in both the contrasting Swedish and Danish locations, but this sense of realism is not borne out by the rather mechanical contrivances of the plot, which seems tied to a Shakespearean template of family power-struggle (underlined by Maria’s rehearsals for Romeo and Juliet, although King Lear and Hamlet are the more obvious models here), but Inheritance has little of the complexity of the characterisation. The dramatis personae are rather broadly defined and obvious character types (controlling mother, weak son, submissive wife, scheming brother-in-law), yet even then they still fail to be consistent within their roles – Christoffer, for example, shows a weakness and ineffectuality against the strength of his mother and the board’s decisions that belies their confidence in his strength to turn around the fortunes of the company and contradicts his own proven track-record as a successful self-made entrepreneur. The acting, faced with these restrictions is competent rather than inspired. The actors go through the motions of their characters’ behaviour without them having any serious on-screen repercussions - grief, anger, jealousy and betrayal are followed quickly by capitulation, submission and acceptance. This is less a fault of the actors than the script, which clearly signals its intentions to the audience with no room for ambiguity or misinterpretation. The mechanics of the plot and the machinations of the characters are as clearly laid-out as the on-screen captions that inform the viewer of each location and the passing of time. Yet despite the inevitability of the outcome, there remains a grim fascination in watching the cut-throat activities of both the industrial and family businesses and their devastating effects on Christoffer’s lifestyle.
Inheritance (‘Arven’) is released in the UK by Spirit Entertainment on a single-layer disc. The DVD is region-free.
Inheritance is filmed in DV, and is mostly hand-held. The movements are fairly controlled and the image is not excessively jerky, but it can be a bit irritating after a while and does draw undue attention to the camera’s presence. The transfer has all the characteristics and the sheen of the digital image. The picture is crystal clear and free of negative flicker. Tones are reasonably good, but there is typically no real shadow detail or definition in the colours and the blacks are noticeably flat. There is a grainy quality to indoor scenes, but this is not excessive. Basically, this is as good as it gets for DV photography and the image is as impressive as it ought to be, with only one issue. The transfer has not been anamorphically enhanced, which is surprising on a modern widescreen release and rather disappointing. Other than that, the image quality is almost perfect, with little sign of any kind of digital artefacts.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo audio track is strong and clear. It’s not at all showy and doesn’t really need a wider mix than this, so it presents the soundtrack very well indeed.
English subtitles are fixed on the transfer, but not burned into the print. They appear both on and below the image itself, so the picture cannot be zoomed to widescreen.
The only extra feature on the DVD is a Theatrical Trailer (1:45), which gives a good indication of the force of the subject matter.
Inheritance is a competent, well-made film, with a good sense of mise en scène and good performances from the cast. The rather uncomplicated plot however presents little in the way of suspense as to the development and outcome other than the surprisingly unchallenging reactions of the main characters to the downfall fate holds in store for them. The UK Region 2 DVD has excellent AV quality, only let down by a non-anamorphic transfer and widescreen-unfriendly fixed subtitles.