Bleeder is about the soon-to-be father Leo (Kim Bodnia) and his loving girlfriend Louise (Rikki Louise Andersson) as they prepare for parenthood, in their own ways. Lenny (Mads Mikkelsen) is Leo's longtime friend and is also an avid movie connoisseur who has largely withdrawn himself from society. Because of Lenny's interest in movies he works at a local video shop where he can indulge in his obsession 'till his heart's content. Lenny only has to answer to the laid-back and eccentric manager Kitjo (Zlatko Buric), which suits Lenny's lifestyle just fine. Kitjo is also happy to have Lenny working for him because of his extensive knowledge of movies. As Leo struggles to fully commit to Louise and with becoming a father, he must also placate and contend with her protective brother Louis (Levino Jensen) who's a violent criminal, to some unknown extent.
I never got the impression that Lenny was particularly craving companionship, in fact, he seemed quite satisfied with his mostly solitary life. Lenny's big night out was a movie screening at the video shop with Leo, Louis and Kitjo. Suffice to say that Lenny is content with his small life, at least I thought he was. Even after Lenny meets the bored waitress Lea (Liv Corfixen), he seems either apathetic or conflicted about pursuing a relationship with her. As Leo becomes increasingly apprehensive about bringing a child into this 'shitty world' as he sees it and is becoming distant from Louise. The socially awkward Lenny is slowly developing a relationship with Lea, and I think the two sense a connection with each other. Lenny is an ardent cinephile, while Lea is a fervid bibliophile, both to such a degree that it affects their social lives, but neither one cares.
Bleeder feels astonishingly verite. It's raw, it's gritty and it's an unsettlingly stark look at the complexities of the human condition as the stress and pressure of Leo's upcoming fatherhood begins to affect him, and all those around him that he cares about in irrevocably devastating ways. Leo's frustrations, and his selfishness and stubbornness threaten everyone around him, and there's a constant sense of foreboding and volatility that pervades the movie, like it could explode at any moment. The cinematography feels very tight and personal, I'd say almost intimate at times, and there's some nice uses of shallow focus and a lot of good framing and composition of certain shots.
I was immediately drawn into Bleeder with its somewhat simplistic, but effective introduction of all the main characters. With Nicolas Winding Refn using a song for each character that indicates the sort of personality and outlook they have. We're then taken into a swirling tour of the video shop store that Lenny works in with Theme de Camille by Georges Delerue playing ominously. There's a great deal of importance or reverance being placed on the video store in Bleeder.
The characters all lead small lives, they all have small apartments, small dreams, small aspirations, only the video store seems to be the communal meeting place for them, their temporary escape from their small lives. Even Lenny only feels comfortable with Lea when he's talking about movies, or taking her to the movies. I feel like there were a lot of shades of Refn in the Lenny character too, even though he's arguably not the main character of the movie. The dialogue takes on an almost Tarantino/Smith vibe at times as well, with trivial, but realistic ramblings about movies, celebrities, and so on. It's rather deceptively insightful dialogue for such a young writer.
I think Nicolas Winding Refn is one of the most bold, daring and fascinating directors working today, though he's certainly divisive. There's one thing I think that almost everyone could agree on when it comes to Refn, and that is his ability to create moods and suspense through pure ambiance. Ultimately I think Bleeder is about how different men cope with growing up, maturing, and dealing with the sometimes suffocating trials and tribulations of life. It's rich thematic material, but it does feel a little shallow, basic and plodding at times.
This was only Nicolas Winding Refn's second movie, and he made it when he was only 29 years old. Nicolas was also overseeing every single aspect of the movie, including writing it, so it feels a bit rough and unpolished around the edges. But it's one hell of an admirable effort. I have to say that the ending deflated the movie for me quite a bit. I don't want to give anything away, but it just didn't make any sense to me and undermined what was otherwise an impressive movie from a rookie who got thrown out of film school.
Written by - The Sentry - 05/07/2016