Reality is portrayed with accurate, sensitive detail in Danish filmmaker Frelle Peterson’s Uncle.
It is shot in the southern region of Denmark on Peter H. Tygesen’s working farm. To make full use of the setting, Petersen lived there before filming. He also cast Tygesen, who had never acted but was willing to try, in the title role.
Petersen’s choice was well-informed as Tygesen embodies the part of Uncle with gentleness, wit and charm. Like the character he portrays, Tygesen has tended the cows and tilled the fields all his adult life.
The Uncle’s hard-working niece, Kris, is played by Tygesen’s real-life niece Jette Søndergaard. Her depth of emotion in the role engages, despite or maybe because of minimal dialogue and the absence of background sounds, except those of farm life’s daily routines.
Although no word is spoken throughout the entire nine-minute opening of the film, when Kris wakes, dresses and waits upon her disabled paternal uncle and guardian, it is packed with content.
Søndergaard’s experience as a real-life veterinarian informs Kris’s abilities with animals. Similarly, real-life vet Ole Caspersen brings insights to Johannes, the vet who upsets the balance of Kris’s harmonious, if mundane, relationship with her Uncle, when he offers her a job as his assistant.
Romantic love also interrupts the rhythm of life on the farm when Kris meets Mike at the church near the cemetery where her father is buried. Soon afterwards, music slides in under the action for the first time, unobtrusive and lovely.
Nuggets of subtle Danish humour add to Uncle‘s graceful beauty – a film about the love of sky and landscape, farming and animals, and people one for the other.
Uncle screens as part of the digital offerings at this year’s Vancouver International Film Festival through October 7. Visit viff.org for tickets and information.