Saturday, September 9, 2017

What We Become

The suburbs of Sorgenfri are idyllic with large houses and happy families. One such happy family consists of parents Dino and Pernille, teenage son Gustav, and daughter Maj. Suburban perfection is ruined when an infected person kills their wife. Suddenly, the entire neighborhood is under quarantine, not allowed to leave their houses and given measly rations of food and water each week. Gustav feels he must do something to change the situation, but the far reaching effects of his action may not be what he expects.

What We Become starts with suburban bliss. The families in Sorgenfri are happy and rich. The dissatisfaction of such idyll is embodied in their teenagers, namely Gustav and his neighbor Sonja. They both hold disdain for family events and would rather be doing something illicit like drinking. Gustav, the more volatile of the two, doesn't hesitate to curse at his complacent parents and storm off when the whim takes him. His parents also shelter Maj whenever possible from even the most tiny of negative things, which I found completely bizarre. They may want to protect her, but the realities of the world will get to her eventually. She'll also probably be even more traumatized than if her parents guided her through them and gave her tools to cope and reason through things.

Once the plague gets started and the military comes in, no one knows what to do. Normalcy completely breaks down, seen when someone is struck by a car in broad daylight, but police and emergency services drive right by without a second glance. No one has experienced something like this before, so the casual brutality and complete control of the military is alien to them. If they don't comply even with a small act, death is the punishment because the authorities won't take any chances. Each family is sealed into their home with opaque house wrappings and given rations once a week. Everyone is in complete ignorance of what's going on. There is no cure, no treatment, and no answers whatsoever.

Gustav is an idiot teenager from the beginning of the movie. I don't like him at all and grew a bit frustrated with his central role in the film until I saw the bigger picture. At the start of the movie, he spies on Sonja with the largest binoculars possible and she seems flattered by this attack on her privacy. He disrespects his parents with little reaction and sets of fireworks just because. After the plague comes, Gustav thinks it's a great idea to snoop around the military operations and causes a huge catastrophe that cuts them off from food and releases zombies everywhere. Because of the huge repercussions of Gustav's actions and the fate of Maj at the end of the film, I feel the film is about the dangers of ignorance and being overprotective. Their children are woefully unprepared for real life let alone a zombie apocalypse because Gustav is allowed to do anything and Maj is practically wrapped in bubble wrap.

Fear comes from many sources. The zombie action is similar to Night of the Living Dead. There are a lot of haunting images like the zombies coming through the plastic wrap surrounding the houses, a dead baby in a crib surrounded by flies, and a zombie attacking his wife then sitting down to watch TV as if nothing happened. Zombie bites transmit the disease and someone slowly turns this way. I don't see a lot of zombies movies that have a big military presence, so that danger coupled with the zombie plague made for much heightened tension and fear. The danger of these humans was almost equal to the zombies. The general public is held in complete ignorance, similar to Gustav and Maj, so people have no idea how the disease is transmitted or what signs to look for that someone is infected. They can't protect themselves or their families because they weren't given the knowledge.

What We Become is a Danish zombie film completely worthy of your time. I watched it one day on a whim on Netflix and it was a lot deeper and better than I expected. Some of it will feel familiar because it employs a lot of zombie genre tropes, but I feel it has a different perspective than most American zombie media. There aren't a lot of likeable characters, but that's by design of the larger themes and ideas. The ending is incredibly bleak and doesn't shy away from harsh realities. I would definitely recommend it.

My rating: 4.5/5 fishmuffins

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