Apr 12, 2000 at 12:00 am

Mifune, directed and co-written by Soren Kragh-Jacobsen, is the third Danish film made according to the tenets of Dogma 95, a set of rules devised to foist a kind of technical neoprimitivism on the filmmaker. The two main imperatives of this credo, at least as far as the average viewer is concerned, call for natural lighting and handheld cameras which will supposedly enhance a film’s sense of immediacy and realism. As revolutionary movements go, it’s very postmodern – extremely self-conscious and somewhere between a prank and an interesting idea.

Unlike Tomas Vinterberg’s The Celebration, whose Strindbergian evisceration of a familial corpse was well served by this enforced roughness, Mifune is a comedy and a sentimental one at that. It’s the kind of amusing but cornball scenario where a group of lovable outsiders bands together to survive in the big old cruel world. No amount of Dogmatism is going to freshen this material and so one wonders why Kragh-Jacobsen even bothered.

Our main lovable outsider is Kresten (Anders W. Berthelsen), a yuppie on the rise who, just as the film opens, has married the boss’ daughter. Kresten’s big secret is that he has a father and brother living out in the sticks, and when the former dies he’s compelled to go and tend to the funeral, leaving his new wife in the city. Here we meet outsider number two and the source of Kresten’s shame, his brother Rud (Jesper Asholt). Rud could best be described as a "performance retard," coming on like a cross between Frank Fontaine’s Crazy Guggenheim and Benny Hill on Xanax; he has a form of arrested development which gives the sufferer a knack for low comedy.

Outsiders three and four are an improbably attractive prostitute named Livia (Iben Hjejle) and her delinquent younger brother, Bjarke (Emil Tarding). Livia, tired of hooking, answers an ad Kresten has placed in a newspaper for a housekeeper. All this is heading pretty much where you think it is.

Dogma 95 is also known as "the Vow of Chastity" – a distinctly Scandinavian touch with its overtones of guilt and repentance. Mifune is a minor film, but its inconsequential charm manages to peek through the rigorous scouring of that terrible Vow.

Richard C. Walls writes about the arts for Metro Times. E-mail him at [email protected].