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TIFF Review: Flame And Citron

Even though there are countless films about World War II, the Holocaust, and the Nazi occupation of European countries, the tragic subject matter never seems to get old. It may be that the events are so terrible and horrific that our worldly conscience refuses to let us forget by resurfacing in the minds of filmmakers every few years. It could also be that there are an endless amount of stories, like that of Flame and Citron, which are bound to this particular historical period. Or perhaps because many of the people who were alive during the war are now dying off, the remaining few are realizing that time is running out on all the tales that have yet to be told. Whatever the reason for Ole Christian Madsen’s Flame and Citron, the tale of two Danish resistance fighters, it is evident he felt like it was a story that we needed to know, not only for the sake of the men themselves, but for Denmark as a country, and the world as a community.

For Bent (Thure Lindhart) and Jorgen (Mads Mikkelsen), the war is a transformative trail of pain, sacrifice, hatred and most of all, revenge. No longer are they known as mere men, but rather as Flame (Bent) and Citron (Jorgen), the Danish resistance’s messengers of death. Leaving behind their families and friends, Flame and Citron take orders only from Asksel Winther (Peter Mygind), and he gives them only one job: assassinate Nazis and Danish collaborators. In their minds, they can only make a difference by, eliminating all of them, one at a time. At first, that’s exactly what they do, ruthlessly killing any Dane associated with Nazi scum. And then as they grow more confident, they begin to target Nazi’s too. That’s where things take go sour. With the weight of their actions squarely on their shoulders, and both Bent’s mysterious girlfriend Ketty Selmer (Stine Stengade) and Winther acting strange, Flame and Citron begin to question who is really in charge, and for the first time begin to wonder, “Who have we killed, and why”?

A violent and tumultuous tale, Flame and Citron brings new and interesting questions to the discussion table. Why did the two men initially kill, and only ask questions later? Were they merely looking for an excuse for blood, or did they truly think they were doing the right thing? And with all the propaganda, misinformation, and double-crossing, why did they not attempt to look beyond their orders? The magnificence of Flame and Citron is that it not only questions the nature of the war itself, but it also probes the consciousness of these two violent men who were consumed by the manifestations of war, malice and bloodshed . Flame and Citron were on the “good” side, but could they ever really be called good men? Citron was a man who could not tend to his family, nor even love his wife, and Flame was neurotic and certainly bloodthirsty. These were men who had nothing to lose, and by the same token, nothing to gain; soldiers of the war as much as they were soldiers for the war.

In the end, Madsen’s Flame and Citron is a story that blurs the lines drawn by war, and tells us that the heroes behind the scenes, the resistance fighters, were not the type of heroes we might imagine. Lindhart and Mikkelsen do great work in bringing the frightening personas of Flame and Citron to the screen, and Madsen fuses them with likeable characteristics such that we as an audience care for the monsters they become. Monsters yes, but our monsters, and they certainly fought something far worse. Flame and Citron were heroes, and they should be recognized as men who were far braver than most people at the time. Gripping, haunting, and as complex as its title characters, Flame and Citron is a genuine account of two frightening paladins of war who don’t deserve to be forgotten.