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Good Things Await

Good Things Await

Phie Ambo
https://vimeo.com/103508293
2014

This Danish film paints Niels Stokholm’s biodynamic farm Thorshøjgaard into a picture of hyperbolic beauty: sweeping shots of verdant landscape, sensitive close-ups of leaves dripping with morning dew, and sumptuous sunsets, all accompanied by goose-bump-raising vocals of an a capella choir. First developed by philosopher Rudolf Steiner (whose thick tome on the subject Stokholm keeps readily available for curious readers), biodynamic farming is a holistic approach to agriculture that treats soil fertility, livestock care, and vegetation growth as one self-sustaining organism.

Throughout the film, the octogenarian farmer Stokholm, who with his white beard and flannel looks like a sort of agrarian Gandolf, waxes poetic about the interconnectedness of the Earth and the importance of protecting the farm’s natural rhythms. Barely alluded to is the reality that all the animals so lovingly raised on this utopian property are eventually slaughtered. The one scene that even hints at this less-than-picturesque reality—a brief shot of a bright rivulet of blood coursing through the dirt—is more painterly than PETA-provoking.

After watching Stokholm cradle baby calves and tenderly pluck carrots from his chemical-free fields, it’s tempting to declare his biodynamic system the ideal agricultural model. And yet, underlying this pastoral Arcadia is the threat of both legal and financial troubles. The Danish authorities disapprove of the freedom Stokholm grants his cattle, which they argue poses a safety risk. In a telling scene toward the end of the film, Stokholm recounts an experience in which he was gored by an ox and badly injured. Speaking nonchalantly into the camera, he defends the ox and, more shockingly, forgives it. But, then again, not doing so would only prove the authorities right.

If Good Things Await fails in convincing viewers of the superiority of biodynamic farming, it’s only because, for all its cinematographic power, it cannot undo the reality that this world is one of love and beauty, yes, but also of blood.