Movies You Might Have Missed: Teddy Bear

Title: Teddy Bear (10 Timer til Paradis)
Release Date: 2012
Rating: N/A
Length: 92 minutes
Director: Mads Matthiesen
Starring: Kim Kold, Elsebeth Steentoft, Lamaiporn Sangmanee Hougaard
Language: Danish, Thai
Country: Denmark

This is one of two Danish films on this list. For comparison, there are only three French films. There are two reasons for this. First, most French films are not to my liking. (French cinema is largely trash.) Second, both Danish movies I’ve seen have been pretty good. So they’re both on here since they’re good and who really watches Danish cinema? At any rate…

Teddy Bear takes a cliched stereotype about the nice guy who can’t find love and clothes it in humanity. It’s about a Danish bodybuilder who, though he competes successfully, lives with his widowed, domineering mother and is painfully, painfully shy. Mama does not approve of women. Even when he manages to go out on a date, as he is doing when the movie opens, his intense shyness cripples him. He lives the proverbial life of quiet desperation.

But then! His uncle returns from Thailand with a young woman he met there and they are married in Denmark. No doubt, dear reader, you are worldly-wise enough to know something of what has happened and something of what will happen, but the movie handles it deftly. His uncle speaks to him of the ease of meeting, wooing, and marrying a Thai girl and our hero decides that even he could manage it. And we see how desperate he is by the measures he takes. (I’ve seen reviews argue that he must have known what he would find in Thailand, but I think that’s wrong. I’m fairly certain his sheltered life to this point means he is blissfully ignorant.)

He lies to Mama about there being a bodybuilding competition in Germany and books his ticket to Bangkok. It takes a little while, and some very awkward experiences, but his eyes are opened to the reality of what Thailand means to foreigners who arrive “looking for women”. (NOTE: The movie doesn’t actually have nudity, but it is very frank about what is, essentially, prostitution with a thin veneer of respectability.) In a pleasing twist, however, he manages to hang on to a substantial portion of his innocence even as much of his naivete is stripped away. There’s a good deal more to what happens, but I’d hate to spoil it for you. It doesn’t all quite work out to a happy ending; certainly not a storybook-style ending, but in an adjacent neighborhood, perhaps.

The original title translates to 10 Hours to Paradise, but that phrasing in English has sarcastic implications I’m confident weren’t intended by the director/producers. The term “teddy bear” in English carries more of the connotations that describe our hero: a large, fearsome-looking man who at heart is actually quite gentle.

It’s not long, but the pacing and omission of dialogue in many places gave it the relaxed feel of Ozu somewhat. (If you know my movie opinions, you’ll know I don’t have much higher praise than that.) A quiet story about a quiet man and the small changes that have large effects.

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