Screened as part of NZIFF 2016
In the vein of a classic investigative journalism thriller, Christina Rosendahl’s gripping drama The Idealist unravels the deeply compromised relationship between her home nation of Denmark and the United States during the fraught tensions of the Cold War. The titular idealist is Poul Brink, a real-life Danish radio journalist who began working a story on plutonium poisoning in the late 80s, and ended up exposing a 20-year-old international cover-up – in which a military plane crash, missing nuclear weapons, secret documents and sprawling governmental deceit are some of the more alarming elements.
As Brink’s investigation takes him from hospitals and union meetings right into the corridors of power, Rosendahl pulls out all the suspenseful stops of the genre: the thinly veiled threats warning our hero to tread lightly, the mounting pressure on his news network to back off, the ominous black cars that start appearing in his rear-view mirror. But what distinguishes Rosendahl’s entry is her incorporation of real television footage from Danish archives into the narrative. Seeing the actual locations and figures in question works to ground these events in a contextual immediacy, which seems to make the effect of its revelations all the more powerful and sobering.
In an age of galloping globalisation and inscrutable international agreements around security and trade, The Idealist feels like a particularly resonant reminder of the concessions that arise when a little nation aligns itself with the powers of a major one. — JF