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In Your Hands Review

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by Simon Crust Jun 1, 2005

    Ahhhh, the Dogma 95 school of film making. More than just a re-invention of the French Avant-garde, rather a set of strict rules defined to seek out reality and challenge the audience but all the time ignoring conventions or conscious of remove itself from 'standard Hollywood' film making. Of course it still means hand held cameras, poor lighting and at times poor acting and script. But at is best Dogma 95 can really touch an audience and commit that most awful of sins; force one to think.

    Anna, a newly ordained priest, accepts her first job in a women's prison. She has a strong commitment to her faith, perhaps derived from her past, and wants nothing more than to be accepted and succeed in her new appointment. Arriving at the same time is Kate, transferred from another prison due to some troubles, rumours soon start about her so called 'attachment to God'. Reportedly she has 'healing hands' able to cure herself and others of their drug addiction within a single night. She too only wants acceptance at this new prison, unfortunately due to the rumours she finds herself in some problems, not least with the resident pusher, nor Henrik, a guard himself infatuated with her, a feeling she comes to reciprocate during two visits to the outside world. When Anna gets some wonderful and unexpected news, things suddenly take a turn for the worst when this news suddenly turns sour and the two characters rocket towards an inevitable confrontation when Anna reads up on Kate's crime and is unable or unwilling to accept her faith, or any help and it all spirals into tragedy.

    In Your Hands has the Dogma 95 title card, and is reported to be the final in the series that adhere strictly to the rules set up for itself. It has the prerequisite hand held cameras, documentary lighting and feel, no music and no film tricks or time jumps; this is as 'real' as story can be filmed within the confines of the drama. The beauty of the process is the attention to character; the first half of the film takes its time in drawing you into their world, so you get to know how they think, what they feel; and then throw some extraordinary situation (though real) at them and see how they cope. If done correctly, we, the audience, ask ourselves how we would cope with such situations. Not all attempts work, but in the case of In Your Hands, it most certainly does. I don't want to give away the actual plot points as this would spoil the enjoyment of experiencing the joy and pain of the characters as events unfold, serviced to say it tests faith, human condition, loneliness and ultimately life. A huge part of the success of the film must be due to the acting skills of the main characters; they are without exception excellent. Perhaps the best acting comes from Anna, after warming to her character in the beginning when she faces her most difficult decisions towards the end, compounded by the lack of help from her partner all you fell like doing is crawling into the screen and comforting her. It has won and continues to win numerous awards including Best Film and Best Actress/Supporting Actress across various boards and deservedly so it is powerful stuff and though so tragic it may not appeal to all it certainly deserves great recognition.