I was immediately intrigued by the title, Flame & Citron, chiefly because its second part is my fave flavor of Absolut vodka. Whatever the setting, Citron always catches my attention!
I was therefore edified to learn that Flame & Citron (opening in LA this Friday and expanding nationally) is a cinematic tribute to two Danish freedom fighters who took on the occupying Nazis for the better part of 1944. It is a very well-made and engrossing film, full of twists and turns and no shortage of double- and triple-crosses.
On April 9, 1944, Nazi forces marched into Copenhagen and immediately imposed martial law on those citizens they didn't imprison or kill for resisting them. Bent Faurschou-Hviid (played by Thure Lindhardt, mostly recently seen as the Vatican Archives' chief protector in Angels & Demons) and Jorgen Haagen Schmith (Mads Mikkelsen, best known in the US for his turn as Le Chiffre in Casino Royale) resolved to force the Nazis out of Denmark by any means necessary. They quickly became known publicly as Flame (for Bent's rare, red hair) and Citron (perhaps for Jorgen's more acidic personality).
From the start, the more intense Flame has few moral qualms about their resistance efforts. "We're not killing people," he says, "but Nazis." Initially, he draws the line at killing women. Their ethics threaten to change, though, as he and Citron find themselves receiving increasingly questionable orders and making murkier alliances.
Citron has a wife and little girl he rarely sees but remains protective of; he is the more rational between him and Flame, as well as the sweatier of the two. United in their hatred of oppression in any form, Citron and Flame develop in time a seemingly-psychic connection. The two were awarded the US Medal of Freedom posthumously in 1951.
The talented Ole Christian Madsen directed and co-wrote the screenplay for Flame & Citron with Lars K. Andersen. Jorgen Johansson's cinematography is extraordinary, and the production design by Jette Lehmann captures the time and a war-ravaged Copenhagen perfectly. Hummer Hojmark, special effect coordinator, provides subtle but significant support.
Although the film is a little on the long side, clocking in at 130 minutes, it is worth watching as both history lesson and inspirational — if violent — entertainment. One can be justifiably critical of Citron and Flame's take-no-prisoners approach to securing freedom, but it's hard to quibble with Flame's sense of moral certainty in the face of oppression: "I know I'm doing the right thing; it's the only right thing."
UPDATE: Flame & Citron is now available on DVD and Blu-ray from Amazon.com.
Click here to watch the trailer for Flame & Citron.
Review by Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and the Orange County and Long Beach Blade.