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Ole Christian Madsen reignites history in 'Flame & Citron'

The director's film brings attention to two Danish World War II resistance fighter heroes who had been largely forgotten.

August 14, 2009|Susan King

After the end of World War II, all Danish boys wanted to be Flame and Citron -- two of the county's famed resistance fighters who died during the war.

Bent Faurschou-Hviid and Jorgen Haagen Schmith were members of Denmark's Holger Danske resistance group. Faurschou-Hviid was named Flame due to his red hair; Schmith was called Citron because while working at the Citroen car factories in Copenhagen, he would sabotage the German trucks and cars.

But over the decades, their names became faint memories in the country. "It's what happens to a lot of these kind of people -- war heroes with an edge," says Ole Christian Madsen, the director of the award-winning Danish thriller "Flame & Citron," which opens in theaters today. "I think they didn't fit into the official storytelling on how Denmark behaved during the Second World War. After the film opened, everyone in Denmark knows them again."

Madsen's film stars Thure Lindhardt ("Angels & Demons") as Flame and Mads Mikkelson ("Casino Royale") as Citron.

As portrayed in the film, the two assassins were assigned to murder Danes who were Nazi collaborators. But soon they didn't know who their enemies really were, including Flame's flame Ketty (Stine Stengade), a courier who may have been in bed with the Gestapo.

Little has been written about the men in contemporary history books. "Flame was coming from this strange, German-friendly family," Madsen says. "And he was obsessed with guns. He was this wild, wild child who was turning into the best-known Danish killer ever. We had to research everything to get information. We had to go through all the archives. Citron had a brother still living, and Flame had a brother still living. We had to interview the survivors who had worked with them."

Though historians knew about Ketty, no one really connected the dots between her and Flame. But while doing research for the project in a Stockholm archive, Madsen and co-writer Lars K. Andersen came across a receipt for 20,000 Danish crowns given to her by the Gestapo just two days after Flame's death.

"So that is when we really started thinking we had to do some research on her," Madsen says. Ironically, after all of their research, there are still many questions about her story.

"She had an affair with Flame, which was a very serious affair. She had an affair with his boss, and she had an affair with the Gestapo chief and several members of the resistance. She was also strongly bisexual and had a lot of relationships with women. Furthermore, she might have been a Russian spy as well. I still don't know, but I think she wanted to survive, so she moved into areas she didn't understand. She died unhappy, alone and very drunk in 1993."

"Flame & Citron" unfolds like a film noir, and one of Madsen's inspirations for the film was Jean-Pierre Melville's 1969 classic, "Army of Shadows," which he describes as "the best film about the resistance."

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susan.king@latimes.com

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