Next submission: Riders, 29mins. Initial thoughts: pour a glass of wine and get comfy. Final thoughts: this is one of the most electrifying shorts I have seen in a long time. Danish director Jesper Vidkjær Rasmussen cranks the dials up to 11 in a film so tense and overwhelmingly enthralling, the time just flies by. With a captivating narrative, commanding performances and slick cinematography, Riders ticks every box on the ‘good film’ checklist, but where it excels is in fusing them into an affecting whole.
When Lars is released from prison he is set on making a fresh start for him and his family, away from the life of crime and the motorcycle gang he was a member of. The bikers, however, are not willing to let him go so easily… Riders shines a light on the violence that grinds rural Denmark. It’s dark, tense and heart-rending in equal doses.
The premise of the film is hardly original. You might even be able to predict every turn the plot takes, however, what he lacks in originality, Rasmussen more than makes up for with his human approach, convincing characters and cinematic language.
“I tried not to make a stereotype portrait of bikers but intended to make a film about the little boys behind the big muscles and big tattoos, to show the human side of this dark and dangerous environment” – Rasmussen explains. The director’s drive to find the emotional truths behind the bravado is responsible for the most stirring moments in Riders, which reveal the internal struggle of his characters and ultimately tie the film together.
The most rewarding scene comes at the very end of the film when Lars has to face his best friend and violent past. The emotional impact here is palpable, the tension unbearable. I won’t give away the ending but it’s in fact this build up to it, where Rasmussen’s talent really shines, reflected in the actors’ flawless performances.
Riders was born out of Rasmussen’s determination to prove himself a worthy filmmaker after getting rejected by the National Film School of Denmark. Ultimately, it is a grounded, intelligent thriller which showcases the director’s passionate commitment to filmmaking, so I have no doubt in my mind that he has a hugely successful career ahead of him. There’s some talk about a possible feature so we’ll keep our eyes peeled!