Me­dia Shelf

Film by Kas­par Astrup Schröder

Azure - - CONTENTS - David Sokol is a New York jour­nal­ist who hero­izes Statler and Wal­dorf.

Good Com­pany Pic­tures (90 min­utes)

WHEN FILM­MAKER KAS­PAR ASTRUP SCHRÖDER be­gan doc­u­ment­ing the life and work of Bjarke In­gels, his sub­ject’s phe­nom sta­tus was al­ready be­yond doubt. The charis­matic name­sake of BIG had re­al­ized more de­signs than pro­fes­sion­als twice his age – more polem­i­cal ones, too. But if In­gels’ bur­geon­ing fame con­vinced Schröder to in­vest years in trail­ing the ar­chi­tect, then celebrity also places the bur­den of per­sua­sion on Schröder’s fi­nal prod­uct. Why should an au­di­ence, es­pe­cially one com­posed of ar­chi­tec­ture buffs, root for so ob­vi­ous a hero?

Big Time was first re­leased in Copenhagen this past spring, and overnight re­views de­scribed the film as a re­count­ing of In­gels’ ex­haust­ing climb, and hold­ing on, to fame. Some child­hood rem­i­nis­cences ex­cepted, Schröder in fact of­fers lit­tle of the ar­chi­tect’s ori­gin story, and scant ex­pla­na­tion of his de­sign method. The film im­plies that present-day suc­cess comes rel­a­tively nat­u­rally. Con­cern over in­sur­ance li­a­bil­i­ties at the Amager Bakke waste-to-en­ergy plant elic­its the light­est hand­wring­ing; the de­vel­oper of Man­hat­tan “courtscraper” Via 57 West likens risk to in­evitable re­wards, not a source of anx­i­ety. Per­haps Schröder di­rected ar­chi­tect and clients to re-en­act his­tory.

He finds a more will­ing an­tag­o­nist around the half­way mark, when the mu­sic echoes Amer­i­can Beauty and MRI scans fill the in­ter­sti­tial frames: a con­cus­sion is pro­duc­ing de­bil­i­tat­ing headaches in In­gels, in per­fect lock­step with in­creas­ing pres­sure to win busi­ness and to mi­cro­man­age projects. Ul­ti­mately, the drama­ti­za­tion shows it­self. A brain cyst proves in­ci­den­tal, BIG earns the com­mis­sion for 2 World Trade Cen­ter, and In­gels gets the girl. Fame is man­age­able, af­ter all. Ex­is­ten­tial cri­sis averted.

That’s too bad for Schröder, be­cause self-re­flec­tion looks good on In­gels. In re­cur­ring talk­ing-head shots, the ar­chi­tect speaks com­pellingly about ma­te­rial his­tory, de­sign strat­egy and per­sonal legacy. Such mo­ments ap­pear too rarely in Big Time. By in­stead cast­ing about for a nar­ra­tive arc, the film does not so much re­veal a great Dan­ish mind as mar­ket ar­chi­tec­ture as a pro­fes­sion of easy tri­umphs and ac­co­lades.

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