Accurate World War II movies are depressing by nature, but some movies manage to set the bar even higher without seeming to break a sweat. This is especially true for the Danish film “Flame & Citron” (Danish: Flammen & Citronen).
Written and directed by Ole Christian Madsen, “Flame & Citron” is a fictionalization of the true story of a Danish resistance group assassinating Danish Nazi supporters. The story focuses on Flammen and Citronen, the two most active members of the Holger Danske group.
Danish actor Thure Lindhardt plays Flammen, or Flame. Flame’s real name is Bent Faurschou-Hviid. Flame’s name comes from his orange hair after a failed attempt to dye it blond. He works closely with fellow resistance member Citron.
Citronen, or Citron, is played by Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen, well known in America for his roles as Le Chiffre in “Casino Royale” and Hannibal from the show of the same name. Citron got his code-name from working in a citrus factory and sabotaging German vehicles and tanks during his time there. His real name is Jørgen Haagen Schmith and he has a wife and young daughter.
The focus is on Flame and Citron and their personal lives mixed with the war; Flame and his love with a potentially dangerous woman who knows his real name, and Citron with the strained relationship between duty to his family and duty to his country.
Within the first 10 minutes I cared deeply for these two, but I personally felt more attached to Citron. Both have agonizingly painful character arcs, but Citron’s entire journey felt like someone carved out my heart with a rusty spoon and mutilated it with said rusty spoon while pouring salt into the open wound on my chest.
I cannot recall one happy moment in this entire film. “Flame & Citron” does not shy away from the harshness of life during Nazi-occupied Denmark. Even the very short sex scene isn’t happy, but rather it feels like a desperate act for trust and companionship in a world gone mad.
Saying that this movie is pessimistic is the understatement of the century. It may be fictionalized, but it does not glorify the actions of either side. The majority of scenes shot have dark, somber tones and the dialogue is bitter, but soft, forcing you to listen to every inflection the characters make.
Even though the movie is in Danish and German, the dialogue isn’t difficult to follow, as the majority of conversations are usually slow, allowing for the buildup of atmosphere. Even with having no previous knowledge of the Danish language, the story is written with such superb skill that it takes no effort to follow.
For every bitter moment in this movie, it’s an excellent piece of cinematic genius that I highly suggest you watch on Netflix. Without spoiling anything, the last 20 minutes was enough to turn me into a sobbing heap of emotions. Prepare yourself emotionally before watching this despairingly beautiful film that shows how war is, and always will be: Hell.