It’s generally wise not to look for themes in a filmmaker's résumé. It has a nasty tendency to make the stories less rich. But one probably wouldn’t ruin anything by saying that Michael Noer, 34, likes stories about young people who step up and grow up. Nearly all his films are about these little fledglings perched on a branch high up in a tree preparing to plunge into life. Will they spread their wings and fly? Or will they break their necks?
In his 2007 documentary, "Vesterbro", Noer filmed his neighbours, a young couple, as their relationship took them into adulthood. Another documentary, "The Wild Hearts" (2008), tracks a group of cheeky lads making a Grand Tour of Europe on their mopeds. His first feature, "R" (directed with Tobias Lindholm, 2010), is about a young criminal caught in a power struggle among hardened prison inmates.
Now, in "Northwest", two teenage brothers are forced to grow up as a gang war escalates around them in Nordvest, a notoriously rundown, multiethnic working-class neighbourhood of Copenhagen.
While Noer's films have plenty of other interesting angles and themes, including manhood, jackass-type rituals, raw power and sensitivity, the drama of stepping up and taking responsibility clearly fascinates him.
It creates a space to explore extreme environments and an opportunity to describe the sensitivity of someone who is trying to desensitise himself. There is room to have the civilised and the uncivilised, the nice and the ugly, the gentle and the tough, collide in dramatic ways. It is also a good fit for Noer himself, who is part rowdy jackass, intellectual thinker, provocateur and sensitive family man.
Following "Northwest", Noer’s next project is set among old people in a nursing home. It would be very unlike the director not to have the story embrace people who are going through a liminal drama, as they take another step away from innocence and into the adult world.