Danish actress Iben Hjejle had a breakthrough US role in the film "High Fidelity" (2000) after acclaimed turns in the Denmark-filmed productions "Portland" (1996) and "Mifune" (1999). Hjejle, who live...
Although most Holocaust-themed works present the Jews as victims this true story shows there were small bands who did manage to fight back no matter how difficult the challenge. Starting near the beginning of World War II the film focuses on three Jewish brothers who lead a small but effective resistance against the surging Nazi presence in the forests of Belarussia. Eldest brother Tuvia Bielski (Daniel Craig) returns home to find most of his family murdered. His only surviving siblings are his wild quick-tempered brother Zus (Liev Schreiber) prone to shoot first and ask questions later and his youngest brother Asael (Jamie Bell) whose gentle nature allows to him to act as a buffer between his two older siblings. Crux of the film is the conflict between Zus’ quest for revenge at any cost and Tuvia’s more measured desire to save lives. As they round up more and more Jewish outcasts the Bielskis form a community deep in the woods. But soon Tuvia must rise to the occasion and lead the 1 200 strong group deeper into hiding in order to survive the winter and the lurking Nazi threat. Daniel Craig gets back to his acting roots after two high-profile outings as 007. He’s strong resilient and complex as a man with a criminal past whose mettle is tested when he chooses to become an advocate for life over the prospect of turning into a killing machine. Schreiber is superb as well as the toughest of the brothers -- at least on the outside. His primal urge to survive at all costs by using whatever preemptive force is necessary is apparent throughout his well-detailed portrayal. And finally Bell who more than holds his own as the most innocent of the bunch and the one with the most to learn. Alexa Davalos Iben Hjejle and Mia Wasikowska add needed warmth and emotion as the three very different women or “forest wives ” with whom the brothers romantically bond during their years in hiding. Stand out in the enormous meticulously chosen cast is Mark Feuerstein as an intellectual and Viktor Panchenko as Isyyanov the leader of the People’s Army. Edward Zwick is known for intelligent historically based films like Glory The Last Samurai and Blood Diamond. Defiance follows suit shot on a rather large scale with lots of impressive action sequences buffering an intimate story. Zwick’s co-writer Clayton Frohman stumbled upon the Bielskis’ story while reading a newspaper obituary on one of them. Armed with exhaustive research and an unerring eye for authenticity the director does not present any of these characters as saints. They were flawed conflicted human beings caught up in a extraordinary situation which only highlights their indomitable determination and fortitude to walk out of that forest alive. James Newton Howard’s brilliant score with haunting violin solos from Joshua Bell deserve special mention among the talented artists who made Defiance come to life. This is a must-see movie and another towering cinematic achievement for Zwick his best since Glory.
Co-starred with Ian Holm in "The Emperor's New Clothes"; screened at Locarno Film Festival
Starred in the short film "Naked", directed by Niels Arden-Oplev
Worked in theater in Denmark
Reteamed with Arden-Oplev for her feature film acting debut in "Portland"
Spent one-year in the Boston, Massachusetts area as an exchange student during her sophomore year of high school (date approximate)
Breakthrough feature role as a prostitute who becomes a housekeeper in Soren Kragh-Jacobsen's Dogma 95 film "Mifune"
Born and raised in Denmark
Danish actress Iben Hjejle had a breakthrough US role in the film "High Fidelity" (2000) after acclaimed turns in the Denmark-filmed productions "Portland" (1996) and "Mifune" (1999). Hjejle, who lived in Massachusetts as a teenager, studied acting at The National Theatre School of Denmark, and teamed up with director Neals Arden-Oplev in the short film "Naked" (1991). Five years later, he cast her in "Portland", marking her feature film debut as an woman abused by her lover in this nihilistic look at the human condition. She followed up with a co-starring turn in "Mifune", Soren Kragh-Jacobsen's feature, the third to operate within the confines of 'Dogme '95', a manifesto created with fellow Danish directors Thomas Vinterberg and Lars von Trier calling for naturalistic filmmaking. Here she gave a winningly feisty performance as an on-the-run prostitute who takes a job as a housekeeper for an odd family in an attempt to start a new life. The blonde actress' unadorned good looks and confident presence made her an especially effective contributor to the Dogma style of filmmaking.
Director Stephen Frears, impressed with Hjejle's work, approached the actress about making her American film debut and subsequently cast her in the Chicago-set reworking of "High Fidelity", Nick Hornsby's seminal novel about a pop music-obsessed thirtysomething man's relationship problems, John Cusack starred as the protagonist Rob and Hjejle played Laura, his live-in girlfriend and the latest in a line of women to break his heart. The actress brought an appropriate self-possessed grace to the role, and displayed a comfortable chemistry with Cusack as well as a capable American accent. Interested in working in her native country to be closer to her husband and young son, the Copenhagen resident had not ruled out the possibility of additional American work, but expected to follow up her role in "High Fidelity" with a turn in Kragh-Jacobsen's "Skagerak", another Dogme 95 feature.
The National Theatre School of Denmark
Brookline High School
Her name is pronounced EE-ben YI-leh.
Iben Hjejle's reaction to footage of herself playing a Chicago lawyer in "High Fidelity": "Who's that cute little blonde American girl? Oh my God, it's me!" --quoted in Variety, March 10, 2000
Hjele on how the shooting of "High Fidelity" differed from that of experimental Dogma feature "Mifune": "Coming from a Dogma movie--where you have to do your own makeup and wear your own damn clothes everyday [laughing]--there were huge differences, especially on the technical side. Plus it's like, 'Oh, I feel thirsty'--and they have a truckload of Coca-Cola brought in." --quoted in Time Out New York, March 30-April 6, 2000