Whilst watching the documentary The Ambassador, I kept thinking of that moment in Shakespeare’s Macbeth, when the flawed title character muses:
‘I am in blood stepped so far, that shall I wade no more, returning were are tedious as going o’er’.
It could apply to Mads Brugger, the director and central character of the film. What begins as an intriguing concept – how easy is it to buy a diplomatic title, and use it to corrupt – turns into a documentary of sheer threat and controversy.
This is my first introduction to Mads Brugger. A Danish satirist and filmmaker (perhaps a cross between Sacha Baron and Mike Moore), who gained the attention of the documentary world with his 2009 film The Red Chapel (where he pretended to be a theatrical director to infiltrate North Korea).
In The Ambassador, he is all on his own, having cut ties with anyone who may know him. For his investigation to work he must fully immerse himself in his creation. He because this absurd, exaggerated character, a larger than life diplomat – brash and bold, large sunglasses, power suits, a cigar in his hand. He is like a big game hunter.
The film is shot on a handheld camera, the image is crisp and the audio clear. Some scenes are shot with a hidden camera, further highlighting the danger Mads has put himself in. He befriends many people along the way that are willing to assist or hinder him.
The Ambassador expertly raises so many questions. How easy is it to buy your way to corruption? How easy is it to con people ? But for me, the real highlight of the film is the gradual realisation to Mads that his undercover, eccentric and powerful documentary could unravel at any moment, with serious and deadly consequences.
At the time of writing this review, The Ambassador is to be screened at the Melbourne International Film Festival 2012 (MIFF 2012). I recommend adding this film to your list of documentaries to see this year.