Screen Time: 55%
Age: 13 years old
Screen Time: 20%
Age: 12 years old
Screen Time: 20%
Age: 11 years old
Screen Time: 15%
Age: 6 years old
Screen Time: 30%
Age: 12 years old
Directed: Ole Bornedal
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Horror, Science Fiction
6th grade is having a new substitute teacher. She is very ambitious and wants to train the class to win an international competition for European schoolchildren in Paris. Evidently, this substitute is not, what they are used to – apparently she can read the children’s minds, and when she is alone with the pupils in class, she is downright malicious. The children immediately make a complaint about her, but she succeeds in convincing the parents, that she is fantastic – though the class claims, that she is an evil “alien” from a strange planet. The substitute achieves this through her irresistible charm, and soon the parents turn their suspicions towards the children, since their exaggerated imagination seems loaded with too much science fiction, sick video games and mad movies…
Movie ReviewsDIRECTOR’S NOTE
With “The Substitute” we intend to create new boundaries in children’s and young people’s film culture in Scandinavia.
While the American and British films in the same genre are willing to explore and challenge the generation with up-beat films that shower the senses with gothic, strong, glorifying, explicit and emotionally AND existentially trespassing impressions, it is as if the Scandinavian film industry in general restrict itself to strongly colouristic experiences. Here the children move among in a world, where the caretaker is evil, the castle is old, granny is sweet, the uncles giddy, the trousers short and the mystical key hidden.
“Harry Potter”, “Lord of the Rings”, “X-Men”, “Spiderman” – even the “Matrix” – are all films that challenge the children’s needs for horror as well as humour – but also their almost eccentric taste for colourful visual style and a storytelling that has no limitations. This also explains why adults actually enjoy watching these films WITH their children.
“The Substitute” is born from this challenge.
Carl is a darkened boy, who gave up on the world after the sudden death of his mother. His life simply has stopped 70 years too early. Now he tries to keep up the good spirit of his little sister and keep his disillusioned and absent-minded father (Ulrich Thomsen) going. As in almost any occasion in life, nothing happens until the next accident takes place. Carl’s school class is going to have a Substitute – Ulla Harms, played by Paprika Steen.
The substitute is a terrible tryout for them, to put it mildly – sharp, cold, cynical. She presents the class to the ultimate challenge: Quite simply, the children are to be smashed in a number of tests, to make her certain about their skills, and if they match her demands, the class is going to Paris for a big European competition.
Of course it’s a lie. Of course Ulla Harms is from outer space – a sour planet without love, from which she has been sent out as an anthropologist to collect and bring back “human-samples”. These will be studied in order to learn about the great capability of the human being: to love. Yes… to love.
The kids find out about her alien nature, and now the battle begins – they have to avoid the plans of Ulla Harms, but also they struggle to convince their sceptical parents about this very unlikely story. Isn’t our children already pervaded and ruined from Playstation, X-Box and the crazy plots in the heap of exaggerated imaginative movies? It is hard to believe that your teacher is supposed to come from outer space.
In short, it’s a rather intense story – about love and hate, death and sorrow, paranoia and the ability to survive. The greatest fear of any child is, that the parents DON’T GET it. That mum and dad will turn their back on you. “The Substitute” draws up this picture with a big, black line. The kids UNDERSTAND and the kids KNOW – but the world has turned it’s back on them and sent them to therapy.
Also, in a strange way, Ulla Harms encapsulates the capability of the human being: what we CAN. She is from outer space – yet she has the same job as Carl’s father, she is an anthropologist. Of any species in the universe, she has experienced that the human being is the strongest – and why? The loveless Ulla Harms seeks this explanation – and partly finds the answer.
The camera provides a brutally honest—almost bleak—picture, and - while racing against the wind - we see dark formations of clouds in the sky over the heads of the innocent children; great music provided by Hollywood composer Marco Beltrami creates an aesthetic previously unseen in Scandinavian and European films.
“The Substitute” was selected for BUFF (The International Children and Young People's Film Festival in Malmö, Sweden) and won two prizes. Two extremes: First, it was given a prize by the children themselves – because they found the film breathless, exciting and seductive. Also it was honoured by the Church of Sweden’s annual film award – because they found it an existential parable of a child coming to terms with his sorrow, a battle between dark and light.
“The Substitute” could not wish for a better description.
Best regards and enjoy,