“A proper wife–if she has an affair–no one notices.”
In the Danish film, Kira’s Reason, Mads (Lars Mikkelsen) collects his wife Kira (Stine Stengade) from the mental hospital. She’s spent the last two and a half years there, and in her absence, he raised their two small boys.
For Kira’s first evening at home, Mads has arranged a large ‘welcome home’ party. Now it doesn’t take a great deal of imagination to realize that it’s a bad idea to swamp someone with houseguests on their first night back home from a psychiatric institution. While some people might think that Mads just means well, to surround Kira with people could also signal a wish to avoid being alone with his wife. And naturally, there’s a degree of awkwardness between the two of them. After all, Mads didn’t visit Kira in the mental institution during her two and a half year absence.
This intriguing film follows Kira’s attempts to have a ‘normal’ life, and it’s clear almost immediately that this is not going to happen. While Mads and Kira rapidly reengage on a sexual level, Mads remains cold and remote. In spite of the fact that Kira has been locked up, and just recently released, Mads expects her to be able to cope with life and unleashes her upon an unsuspecting world. Kira tries to manage, but she’s still very, very fragile, and her attempts to mingle in society result in disaster.
Stine Stengade, who looks as though she could be related to the Kennedy women, acts her heart out here. For some scenes, she looks gorgeous. Elegant, sleek and well-kept, but at other times, her eyes assume the wild look of a trapped animal. Mads is emotionally detached from his wife, but then some scenes indicate that this is possibly a natural defense mechanism. Kira is capable of some wild behaviour, and we don’t really know all the history between them or exactly why she was locked up in the first place. But after Kira is involved with some unpleasant episodes, it’s fairly easy to grant a great deal of sympathy to Mads. But as this subtle film plot progresses, Mads does some fairly awful things too.
As an outsider, you never really know what someone else’s marriage is like, and that is certainly true of Mads and Kira’s marriage when the film begins. But the film provides an intimate insider’s look at a pathological marriage, and the hand-held camera shots help create that up close and personal feel. I really enjoyed this film up until the denouement. Somehow I’d hoped for more, and instead the film dissolved into a cliched conclusion. Not everyone is going to feel quite the same way about the big dark secret at the rotten root of Kira’s marriage, but I was waiting for something…perhaps a glorious scene of destruction that would make Joan Crawford proud. Oh well. Time to dig out an old Joan Crawford DVD….
Kira’s Reason is in Danish with subtitles, and since it’s a Dogme 95 film, expect all the non-trappings of this particular film movement. Directed by Ole Christian Madsen.