Coming to theatres from director Billie August and Juno Films is the story of writers, love and pain all with THE PACT.
Karen Blixen (Birthe Neumann), who became famous for her work “Out of Africa” is living a quiet Danish life still dealing with the heartbreak of a lost love. What is worse, she is also suffering terribly from an illness from years past. Finding things to keep her life occupied, a visitor shows up at her door and a journey is about to begin.
At her door is poet Thorkild Bjornvig (Simon Bennebjerg), a young man with a family to support who dreams of spending his days writing. Karen spending their visit explaining that she wants to make a pact with him, that he trusts in her with everything about his life and he will receive all that she can provide for his success. When not together, letters are being exchanged between them.
In the beginning, it is all exciting at the prospect of being able to write without financial worry. Wife Grete (Nanna Voss) has always supported Thorkild and sees this as an amazing opportunity and continues to support him. When a home accident occurs, Karen tells Grete that Thorkild should come to her home to recuperate and give him time to write in peace and quiet.
Grete is uneasy realizing that there is a strange attachment Karen has for her husband. But the party goes on as Thorkild finds another friend in Benedicte (Asta August) who is married to his financial benefactor Knud Jensen (Anders Heinrichsen). Watching everything is Karen.
Deciding that it is time for Thorkild to stretch his wings, she arranges for him to study in Bonn. Karen also has other plans convincing Benedicte that he needs a friend to convince him to stay and finish his studies. That is when things become even more twisted as families are on the verge of being torn apart and one person is pulling the strings.
Neumann as Blixen is a woman who is dealing with so many different issues. Still pining over the love she had for Denys Hatton during her time in Africa and an illness that was poorly treated years before. She turns to those that delve into artistic writing and the society that supports them but with one extra step and that’s where Thorkild comes in. Wanting full control over his life and his emotions is like watching a magician cast a spell over everyone that is in her presence. Neumann gives a stunning performance with twists, turns and shocks.
Bennebjerg as Thorkild is a man who wants to spend his life studying and writing. When the opportunity comes with Karen Blixen, he is astonished to the point of easily making the pact with her. Even when she has unusual requests, he believes that everything is done for his artistic betterment. Bennebjerg gives his character a mixture of loyalty to his family and loyalty out of what he things is gratitude. This actor also gives his character choices and whether right or wrong, they are his choices.
Voss as Grete is a wife that is far more understanding than anyone has a right to be. Supporting her husband time and time again, she sees what is happening but can not make him understand that it is rather frightening. When she feels trapped, it takes one desperate decision to change everything. Voss is beautiful and wonderful in this role and I enjoyed her performance even if it caused pangs of heartache for Grete which is a great sign of a true actress.
August as Benedicte is a woman who is also under Blixen’s emotional control. Trusting that her words about befriending Thorkild is for the best, she follows blindly into something that causes literal pain and heartache for people who do not deserve it. Benedicte is also at a crossroads in her life but still allows Blixen to take her down a destructive path. August gives her character the angst of everything she is experiencing.
Other cast include Kurt Dreyer as Heinrich, Jytte Kvinesdal as Sygeplejeske, Mikkel Stubkjaer as Bo Bjornvig, Teo Lepetit as Fransk Kultulerite, Susanne Bruhn as Dansk Kultulerite, Bjarne Jonsson as Dansk and Nathan Benson as the Journalist.
Juno Films is a boutique film distributor. Its founder Elizabeth Sheldom has over twenty years of experience in the distribution of documentary and feature films.
THE PACT is the Official Selection of the 2022 Palm Springs International Film Festival and the Official Selection of the 2021 AFI European Union Films Showcase.
The film is filled with intense emotions and twists that will have the viewer either shaking their head or having that look of ‘do they not see what she is doing?’. Of course, these characters do not because they want to trust in the best of people and the best of Karen Blixen. The cast does a remarkable job of presenting this story with heartbreak and beauty.
There is also the majesty of costuming and cinematography that invites us into this world and era. Once again, as a huge fan of costumes, it brings a richness an authenticity that I just adore.
THE PACT is based on the relationship between the 63-year-old Nobel Prize winner Karen Blixen and Thorkild Bjornvig. Their time together proved to be intense and raveled in the artistic emotions of two people who were looking for something, anything to find what each was seeking. The problem is, it was at the expense and intense emotions of others.
In the end – how far will you go for love and art!