The faithful AFF audience was in for a treat on Monday night with Michael Kohlhaas, an intensely moving film that shows the value of justice in society. Based on the novella by 16th century author Heinrich von Kleist, the film follows the improbable quest of horse breeder Michael Kohlhaas as he tries to get remuneration for his badly injured servant and two stolen horses. Set in the Middle Ages, the scenery and costumes are well done. Danish heartthrob Mads Mikkelsen as Michael Kohlhass is magnificent. Best known for his work in Casino Royale and as Hannibal Lecter in the American TV show Hannibal, Mikkelson is a classic character actor. His emotional range and commanding force on the screen is spot-on. Mikkelson’s on-screen daughter, Mélusine Mayance is equally strong.
The best supporting character of the film by far is the cinematography. The stillness in the fields, the snorting of the beautiful horses and the clanking of the metal swords gives the film richness and texture similar to the look and feel of Winter’s Bone. The slow, deliberate pace of the film allows the audience to fully appreciate the danger of Kohlhaas’ journey. Many of the violent scenes are done in almost absolute silence with blood and gore rarely seen. This makes the violence even more chilling and powerful. Michael Kohlhaas is not a typical big budget historical drama and it’s not meant to be. It is a quiet, powerful story about how much a person is willing to pay to find justice.