Can those which are never remembered burn down a life altogether? Some facts can be completely lost when we choose to look away. But even if you close your eyes and turn your face away in Riders of Justice (Retfærdighedens Ryttere, 2020) you can never escape from the facts, from those “pretty” consequences. Although it is mentioned that our memory is as fragile as a crystal sphere, the endless pain we remember somehow weighs on us.
The 50th edition of International Film Festival Rotterdam kicked off with the most recent opus of Anders Thomas Jensen on the evening of February the 1st and what a joy it was to watch this fascinating yet deadly feature carried with incinerating performances by Mads Mikkelsen, Nikolaj Lie Kaas, Andrea Heick Gadeberg and many others. Known better for his scriptwriting, Anders Thomas Jensen brought fine and fragile subjects together in black humour with a perfect sense of timing. Unlike similar movies of the genre, we don’t need to strain our memory to remember in Riders of Justice, but we are looking for new ways to forget what we will remember in the future.
Having the Right to Speak for the Moment of Being Torn
Mads Mikkelsen, who plays the main character Markus, portrays a man who, after his turning point, becomes attached to his wife’s image. This image is not reflected very clearly. On the other hand, the presence of this image in the film dominates every action that Markus takes. The loss experienced after the first quarter of the movie is replaced by more permanent issues. For Markus, the people, things, life styles that can be regarded as guests of an era that now formed a common language for the future.
Riders of Justice starts off with a simple narrative of revenge. In this sense, you can easily establish a relationship between revenge and destiny, but the issues of black humour and the unconventional sense of delusion in the film clearly portray the human desperate state. At this point where fate and belief, contradictoriness and unbelief meet, you can follow the composition of the human brain acting according to the composition of its movement relative to the others.
Riders of Justice looks much like a pomegranate, one can say. There are pluralistic subjects in its story and as the seeds spill, each one creates its own alternate – yet effective – reality. This has the potential to make alternative narrative gates visible in its script. Nevertheless, in this movie which is nearly two hours, you don’t have, nor need a break from the chronological flow of the story. In fact, when the action intensity of the film combines with its unique sense of humour, you realize that the seriousness of the story is eroded like a stone sculpture. You can also find good examples of the system’s post-modern indifference in this film. The criticism of this indifference builds its own discourse by taking the arrows of society’s criticism, and in doing so it uses very familiar ways.
The Potential of the Person Who Drops the First Domino
From the first scene of the movie, the famous narrative of Bicycle Thieves (Ladri Di Biciclette) comes to mind effortlessly. Maybe our avengers do not seek a particular bicycle but they surely seek for answers and hopefully for some relief. Another strong point of Riders of Justice is the fact that it repeatedly mocks with some key elements forming its narrative. For example, Mathilde makes a big chronological event calendar with post-its on the wall and she places “the stolen bicycle” sticker on top of everything, as a trigger event. Seeing that, we are amazed as spectators, thinking about the endless possibilities about daily events, a new way of understanding the world. And exactly at this moment, Otto walks in Mathilde’s room, sees the wall and says: “It means nothing, it doesn’t make any sense”. And what is even more impressive, Otto explains himself and we start seeing that yes, the connections between these events are nothing more than mere coincidences. So even though the film mocks some of its key elements, it does it with upmost seriousness.
Nicolas Bro (Emmenthaler), Nikolaj Lie Kaas (Otto) and Lars Brygmann (Lennart) give life to the most important characters at the breaking point of the drama genre in the film. Sometimes it is possible to feel oneself in a satirical theatre play in most of the scenes with the characters in question. Also, it should be underlined that Nikolaj Arcel accompanies Anders Thomas Jensen in the writing process of the film. Arcel has also written films such as The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2009) and The Dark Tower (2017).
The sequence of events that grows very calmly, almost in a Michael Mann’s Heat kind of way, (and with only a simple desire: first domino) shows how many possibilities exist in daily life. Although the daily life reflections between action packed events and of course the comic relief: Lennart (Lennart is also the center of one of the most touching scenes of the film) give us some breathing moments, the overall feeling we took from the movie makes us think about these famous lines from the Shawshank Redemption: “You get busy living or you get busy dying”.