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Teddy Bear (2012)
Opened: 08/22/2012 Limited
|Film Forum/NYC||08/22/2012 - 09/04/2012||14 days|
|Miami, FL||08/24/2012 - 08/30/2012||7 days|
Trailer: Click for trailer
Genre: Danish Drama (Danish, English, Thai w/English subtitles)
The 38-year-old Dennis is a painfully shy bodybuilder who would really like to find true love. He has never had a girlfriend and lives alone with his overbearing mother in a suburb of Copenhagen. When his uncle marries a girl from Thailand, Dennis decides to try his own luck on a trip to Pattaya, as it seems that love is easier to find in Thailand. He knows that his mother would never accept another woman in his life, so he lies and tells her that he is going to Germany for a competition. Dennis has never been out traveling before, and the hectic Pattaya is a huge cultural shock for him. Quickly thrown into the seedy underbelly of Thailand's sex tourism scene, he nearly gives up on finding a bride of his own. He is about to lose hope when a visit to a local gym turns into an unexpected night on the town with the Thai woman of his dreams. Dennis finds that there may be hope for him yet, if only he can confront his mother...
The story recounted in Teddy Bear is about feeling oneself to be an outsider. I have always been particularly fond of portraying people who do not fit in that well with society. What prejudices do we harbor when confronted with a tattooed, muscle-bound six-foot man? Most of us would reckon this is a criminal of some kind or at the very least someone prone to violence. At any rate a hard, emotionally stunted individual, and hardly a vulnerable, shy, affectionate person with an overly close relationship with his mother, who has trouble relating to girls.
By the same token, there are a great many prejudices against men who travel to Thailand in search of love. They are either booze sodden sex tourists who exploit all those unfortunate Thai girls or oddball loners who go there to buy themselves a wife. In Teddy Bear I am attempting to play around with people's prejudices, and turn them on their head. Things are seldom as they appear from the outside. Prejudices and received ideas about people and who they are all too frequently create divisions between human beings.
The film portrays different aspects of love. A mother's clinging love for her son, which in very many ways is unhealthy, but which is also extremely primal. It is about that mother/son love, in contrast to the love Dennis is seeking in a female partner. It also attempts to portray the very different pathways love between men and women can take in Denmark and Thailand. In the modern day Denmark with its Welfare State, love and family are no longer just about money and survival. People in the West have other criteria when they seek out love than purely financial considerations. In Thailand, things are different.
Here that kind of love is all about survival, especially in the poorer strata of society. A woman has to find a husband who can support the entire family, from children to grandparents. It is because of this that poor girls from villages in the North head for places like Pattaya to try their luck with male tourists from Europe who have come there because they have issues with love and self esteem in their own countries -- because they feel that back home, they are losers in the game to win women's favors.
The encounter is an interesting one, because in so many ways it is doomed to go wrong. It is an encounter between the West and the Third World, between two very different approaches to love.
Despite all this, it is extraordinary what a vast industry is at work behind this kind of encounter, and how often a kind of loving relationship comes into being against all the odds.
Teddy Bear was shot with a strong regard for realism. From the outset, it was my prime concern to create a credible story world with believable characters, almost documentary in tone. The characters in the film were to be real people, not actors. The story itself is, of course, wholly fictitious in which the characters are playing a role, but the "cast" was to be composed of real people deployed in the real settings we portray in the film. For these reasons, I have used, almost without exception, "non" actors throughout. The bar girls in Thailand are real bar girls, the men around them are the real people who hang out in these places, and last but not least, Kim Kold is a real professional bodybuilder. The characters were cast in their real locales, and the film was shot on location in the midst of all the crazy stuff going on. Real people and real locations were used to create a believable world, and to get closer to the "truth" of the characters' situation. But also because I wanted to create a mode of expression seldom seen in Danish films, where the same array of actors and stereotypes reappear in film after film.
I wrote the screenplay with"Dirch" Martin Zandvliet, with whom I have collaborated on various projects for over ten years.
Teddy Bear is about love, and the search for happiness. It is about the bonds, healthy and unhealthy, that we create with the people we are fond of. And it is about Dennis, who has to learn how to pursue happiness according to his own needs, and not allow himself to be dictated to by his surroundings.
Behind Teddy Bear
It's hard to mention Teddy Bear without also mentioning Mads Matthiesen's successful short Dennis (2007), as both films revolve around the same main characters and dramatic conflicts. Dennis was Mads Matthiesen's midterm project at the alternative Danish film school Super16, and was a huge festival success. Dennis had its world premiere at Sundance and went on to win a number of prizes including at the Melbourne International Film Festival. Dennis was not only very popular with film critics and festival juries around the world, but, maybe even more impressive, it has been seen by more than 3 million users on YouTube since it was uploaded in 2009, a number that is still rising.
Mads Matthiesen got the idea for Teddy Bear already during the shooting of Dennis. It was Frank Corsaro, former chairman of Actors Studio, who inspired Mads to go in this direction.
Teddy Bear is Mads Matthiesen's first feature film, and it carries several footprints from his 9 short films, including the intense feel of realism and the mixture of amateur actors and professionals.