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January 25, 2010



Just saw this on UK TV and the thing that struck me most about the show was that Mads was just as guilty in trying to claim 'the truth' as anyone from North Korea.

Worse than that, at the beginning, he and his two 'comedians' came across as tons more unpleasant than the Koreans. In fact, I felt sorry for the latter, being subjected to a con and cultural imperialism into the bargain... while the Danes appeared cynical and without any decency or humanity.

Bit by bit though, the two Korean Danes became humanised - not by the movie but by being in Korea, reacting to the people around them, walking round the table at the de-militarised zone to their 'home country' of South Korea for the first time since childhood, going to Korean schools, picnicing with beautiful Korean girl singers and performers.

And, as Jacob says at one point:'It's much more complex than you're making it out to be, Mads...' But Mads was having none of it. He was on his mission - even if it meant joining in a peace parade he didn't believe in, saluting the Dear Leader and ORDERING poor Jacob to follow...So that, by the end you felt that he'd have been Heil Hitlering and goosestepping outside Auschwitz if it had been good for the film.

So, ultimately, it was Mads who came across as the real shit in the film. The real human with no heart, no morality, or even warmth. And certainly no sense of humour.

What was Mrs Pak, the guide and interpreter REALLY like? Who knows? She may have been false, may have been a brilliant actor, the way she mothered Jacob, smoothered him sometimes... The only thing I'd say is: I've never been to Korea, North or South, but I have worked in Japan and her behaviour towards her 'guests' I recognised: courtesy. Never to criticise. Never to offend. Never to lower the other's status.

As for the theatre director, I loved him. I really believed him to be a true amateur of his craft and doing the best job he could in making a decent comedy act out of no show at all.

And the main thing the film left me with was this: North Korea... When can I go? I can't wait. It looks like a fascinating place to make a great documentary. I'm surprised nobody's tried yet.

pirate jenny

I disagree with the majority of Steeveetee's analysis of Brugger's behaviour. Although I agree that he arrived there, guns blazing, ready to make a 'subversive satire' that quickly backfired on him, as the 'needs' and value system of the host culture assimilated his vaguely childish prank, I would argue that the three visitors quickly found themselves out of their depth, caught up in the atmosphere of North Korea, where as Brugger points out at the memorial, everything much more complicated that it seems on the surface. We in the west have very little concept of what living under a dictatorship means, day to day; breath to breath. I felt this film gave a precious insight into how people 'find a way to live' under oppressive regimes. I think there was much to love about the people, doubtless as carefullt chosen by the government to guide the interlopers through their cultural exchange as the flawlessly pretty girls at the picnic. Don't be fooled into thinking that Brugger was the villian here. Appearances are the easiest form of deception - and as the filmmaker found out the hard way (whilst wheeling his friend's chair in front of the anti -american demonstration) - when the facade is demanded by iron first under the velvet glove - it's fear that keeps people smiling, and saluting the troops. Naked, animal fear.

Arne Sand

Mads Brügger on Theory and Practice

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