Director Ole Christian Madsen began his career as an adherent to Dogme 95, the famous minimalist filmmaking movement began by fellow Danes Lars von Trier and Thomas Vinterberg. I haven't seen Madsen's previous two non-Dogme films, Nordkraft and Prague, but the remarkable, ultra-stylized Flame & Citron is about as far from the Dogme aesthetic as you can get and still have a movie. Perhaps not coincidentally, it's also one of the most exciting films I've ever seen at Telluride: bold, brave and one of a kind.
Flame & Citron tells the story of two heroes of the Danish resistance to the Nazi occupation, but it is far from your typical World War II period piece. Instead, it plays like some unholy, brilliant marriage between spy noir and comic book movie. Filled to the brim with assassination plots, double-crosses, larger-than-life villains, and big, dramatic gestures, this is not for viewers who like their movies timid and sedate. And under that grand façade, the film grapples with tough moral questions regarding war, occupation, survival, and ideology.
"Flame" and "Citron" are the code names for two Danish assassins who brazenly go after high-profile Danish turncoats and, increasingly, the occupying Germans themselves. ("Do they know what I look like?" asks Flame when he learns of a hefty bounty on his head. The response: "They know you're a redhead.") For them, the necessity of their work is an article of faith: the only moral response to occupation is to kill off the occupiers – and those who assist them – one by one. They take orders from an ornery police solicitor who claims to be in communication with the British. He hands them a name and a photograph, and off they go.