VOD film review: Wildland
Sidse Babett Knudsen8
Sandra Guldberg Kampp8
Matthew Turner | On 01, Nov 2021
Director: Jeanette Nordahl
Cast: Sandra Guldberg Kampp, Sidse Babett Knudsen, Joachim Fjelstrup, Elliott Crosset Hove, Carla Philip Røder
It’s impossible to talk about Wildland without at least acknowledging David Michôd’s superlative Australian crime drama Animal Kingdom, as both films share a similar plot set-up. However, Wildland (released in Denmark as Kød & Blod, or Flesh and Blood) is very much its own thing, not least because its teenage protagonist is a 15-year-old girl rather than a 17-year-old boy. The result is a chilling entry in the Scandi crime genre that marks out debut director Jeanette Nordahl as a serious talent to watch.
Newcomer Sandra Guldberg Kampp stars as Ida, a teenager who’s orphaned when her mother dies in a car crash. She’s welcomed into the open arms of her estranged aunt Bodil (Sidse Babett Knudsen), only to discover that her new guardian is the head of a crime family, ruling with an iron fist over the illicit activities of her three adult sons – sensible eldest Jonas (Joachim Fjelstrup), drug-addicted screw-up middle son David (Elliott Crosset Hove) and pot-head gamer youngest son Mads (Besir Zeciri).
Sandra Guldberg Kampp is terrific as Ida, delivering a performance that has “future stardom” written all over it. The film unfolds from her point of view, and Nordahl heightens this by keeping the camera focused on her seemingly passive face while something horrible happens off-screen. This in itself creates palpable, slow-burning tension, because you’re left wondering just what’s going on in her head as she internalises her dark and disturbing new reality.
Knudsen (who’d previously worked with Nordahl on Borgen) is on typically excellent form in a chilling turn that veers from warm and caring (most notably in the presence of Jonas’ new baby) to outright terrifying in her cold-hearted practicality. It’s a captivating, even hypnotic performance and, like Ida, you dare not take your eyes off her.
Nordahl suffuses the film with an air of dangerous unpredictability – witness the way Mads makes a casual request to Ida that elicits a sharp intake of breath in the audience. Later, when Ida’s situation reaches crisis point, the resulting tension is unbearable as we wait to see what action Bodil will take.
If there’s an issue with the plot, it’s only that the burgeoning relationship between Ida and Mads’ girlfriend, Anna (Carla Philip Røder) – of whom Bodil disapproves – goes frustratingly under-explored, to the point where it feels that a few scenes maybe ended up on the cutting room floor.
The look of the film (courtesy of cinematographer David Gallego and some note-perfect production design) is extremely impressive, contrasting the darkness of the family’s criminal activity with the sunny, suburban setting, something else the film has in common with Animal Kingdom. There’s also a superb electronic score by Puce Mary (Frederikke Hoffmeier) that heightens and sustains tension throughout.
In short, this is a supremely suspenseful slice of Scandi crime thanks to Nordahl’s confident direction and a pair of outstanding performances from Kampp and Knudsen. Here’s hoping Nordahl is already hard at work on her next project, because it will be fascinating to see what she does next.
Where to watch online in the UK:
This review was originally published during the 2021 Glasgow Film Festival.