SIFF Review: ‘The Man (Mesteren)’
The Man is Simon, an icon of the modern Danish art scene, a bohème, and supreme egoist. His beautiful wife, played by Ane Dahl Torp, has subsumed her own self to “manage” her husband, organize his exhibits, make sure the tools he needs are always in hand, massage his ego when needed, all to facilitate Simon to be the great man he is. Though Simon claims to dislike young people, he is surrounded by young artists, his team, who help implement his grand-scale installation art. Into this scene enters his adult son Caspar, age 28, to meet his father for the first time.
Caspar’s arrival threatens Simon on several stages. Though unknown to him at their first-meeting, his son has already attracted world-wide attention for his art. Primary in this film is the theme of that age-old conflict between fathers and sons when the son begins to eclipse the father and the battle of the testosterone is engaged. Simon not only feels the competition on the professional front, but on the personal as well. With the arrival of Caspar, he is confronted by visual proof that he is no longer the perpetual zestful and exuberant ageless child. While he depends on his wife to take care of practical matters, his sexual usage of one of his young interns feeds his illusion that he is still a “young stud.’ Now he suspects both his wife and his young lover are shifting their interest away from him and towards his son. Lastly, Caspar’s presence forces Simon to acknowledge his own egoism in choosing his passion for ‘la vie artiste’ over life as a husband and father when he abandoned his son Caspar and his beautiful ballerina wife.
The Man is a visually vibrant film, the themes of the movie thought-provoking and subtly played out. The acting of Søren Malling, who plays Simon the father, and of Jakob Oftebro, who plays Caspar the son, is outstanding. Oftebro’s role is quietly nuanced in contrast to Malling’s, whose character Simon is at times flamboyant and other times smoldering and suspicious. Add to this, there is an underlying tension as Simon himself is not sure if Caspar has come to seek love and friendship from his father or to seek revenge for his father’s abandonment of him and his mother. The Man is a well-constructed and very professional piece of filmmaking.