Flame & Citron (Flammen & Citronen) is 2008 Danish film co-written and directed by Ole Christian Madsen. It’s a menacing, dark and based on events during WWII about two Danish resistance movement fighters nicknamed Flame and Citron, during the Nazi occupation of Denmark in World War II. The most expensive Danish film produced to that date, it was highly successful at the box office and won numerous awards
What’s interesting about this film is the dramatization of the historic figures. Comparatively it’s hard to adapt history to film well and here the script by Ole Madsen and the director himself should be appreciated for his work on this unflinching written story about the internal problems and moral ground of resistance movements, with the prime characters of Danish Resistance fighters Flame (Thure Lindhardt) and Citron (Mads Mikkelson) respectively.
This reminds the recent mini genre concerning resistance; collaboration and the arguable line between political homicide and assassination include ‘The Lives of Others’ and ‘Black Book.’ But Madsen also acknowledges the strong influence of the late French director Jean-Pierre Melville’s 1969 made ‘Army of Shadows,’ and there are more than sufficient dark corners and unsettling moods in this film to justify the comparison.
The story unravels the time of 1943-44 during World War II. The two of the most active fighters in the Holger Danske resistance group-the red-haired Bent Faurschou-Hviid known as Flammen and Jorgen Haagen Schmith known as Citron, who both were killed toward the end of the war. As the two friends assassinate Danish Nazis and collaborators, they become involved in increasing ambiguity. The depiction is all set in their actions as they gun down Nazi’s and their sympathizers in the streets, with the usual and expected amount of seriousness. The plot thickens when SS Commander Hoffman (Christian Berkel) appears, providing them with their arch-nemesis, and primary target, despite calls to contrary from the resistance leadership, and from the Communist party officials.
The two protagonists are odd paired- Flammen is just 23 and so named for his flaming red hair, while Citronen is bespectacled and always sweaty with stubble on his face. As such, they would seem highly perceptible; though gather with their accomplices at a local cafe patronized by top Nazis, including Gestapo chief Hoffmann. Following the intensity of the characters, the two also have feebleness for women. The married-with-daughter Citronen because he can’t carry himself to kill females, Flammen because he falls for a blonde number named Ketty (Stine Stengade), who may well be working both sides of the street as a double or triple agent. Her character gives the audience yet another level of suspense and conspiracy into the fray. Who is she really working for? What is her role in all of this?
While this relationship bubbles at arm’s length, the men go about their business taking orders from their boss Aksel Winther, from the government in exile in London as they meticulously stake out their targets. The two men with their prowess boldly approach, conflict between what they feel and must do as local citizens, there are moments where the audience know they are willing and get revenge for a Nazi retaliation killing. The risk at stake tremendous pressure as violence begets more violence. The film strongly conveys the strain every hit inflicts on those characters seek for vengeance. Truly, ugly, but it makes for a good story
The film is mixed very well with the vintage newsreel footage presents the spectacle of Nazis rolling in to occupy Denmark early on, but the action is confined to the period between May and October, 1944, by which time it was clear to the Nazis which way the wind was blowing. With the endgame imprecisely in sight, behavior on both sides becomes increasingly extreme; the two assassins are bolstered to greater nerve, while the Germans step up their retaliatory executions. Director Madsen keeps his focus pretty tight. The protagonists’ psychology is not deeply fathomed, but certain traits are emphasized to suggest the personal effects of their activities. Flammen seems to get off on killing to an alarming degree, and the more he gets away with it, the more reckless he becomes. The permanently sedated Citronen is essentially dysfunctional except in the line of duty.
The Performances are above par, with their delicate reflections of the storyline bursting with nerves and energy is noteworthy. Lindhardt keeps Flammen’s wild side barely suppressed, while it’s almost funny how Mikkelsen maintains his two-day stubble so consistently, despite Citronen’ s general unkemptness. As a brilliant fascist elder, Hanns Zischler as Gilbert brandishes more authority and charisma than anyone else in the cast.
The film is impressive in captivating the city of early twentieth century, of its habitat and visual sensualities and oppressive German presence of the city of Copenhagen. Some of the trivia about the film’s title, which are made up of the nicknames of the two main characters. Flammen refers to the color of Bent Faurschou-Hviid’ s copper red hair, after he tried to dye his brown hair blond for disguise. Citronen (Danish for Lemon) was nicknamed in part because he worked at the Citroën motor-car company in Copenhagen, where he sabotaged numerous German cars and trucks
In a sense of pictorial landscape, the audiences are up for the mood of the film that never siege beyond, as a dark and brooding as the movie, and similarly demonstrate the high stake of the situation. The suspense and intrigue also are top-notch in my opinion. Trust no-one would imagine that the entire film keeps the style clean and free of visual deceit. Full marks to the lens men Jorgen Johansson and music by Karsten Fundal’s moody score is really good.
- Directed by Ole Christian Madsen
- Produced by Lars Bredo Rahbek
- Written by Ole Christian Madsen and Lars K. Andersen
- Cinematography: Jorgen Johansson
- Editor: Soren B. Ebbe
- Music and background score :Karsten Fundal
- Casting: Thure Lindhardt; Mads Mikkelsen; Jesper Christensen; Peter Mygind & Stine Stengade
- Runtime of 132minutes
- Country: Denmark
- Language: Danish / German