Norway’s most famous actress, Wenche Foss, died Monday at the age of 94. She was hailed as all of Norway’s dive for as long as I can remember, and she had strong political views with regards to mixing religion and politics, gay rights and the rights of people with Down’s syndrome.
I’ve seen her myself on stage a couple of times, and she featured in films such as The Wild Duck (Vildanden, 1963), Pinchcliffe Grand Prix (Flåklypa Grand Prix, 1975) and I am Dina (Jeg er Dina, 2002); as well as smaller productions like the infamous dark comedy short Gull og grønne skoger, where she plays a media shy hermit. Thanks, bravo, it was a great performance! Rest in peace.
From the deceased to the decapitated: I just wanted to add that on my list of the "last five flicks" this time around I had written down Grizzly Man (2005), but I have chosen not to write about it. Let me explain why.
I think the premise of the production is unethical. The montage of hand-held footage portrays the life of Timothy Treadwell, former drug-addict gone paranoid, who projects his own emotional insecurity and instability onto the wild carnivores of Alaska who ultimately (and inevitably) ends up eating him (and his girlfriend). The delusional Treadwell believes he is a bear and the reason why he didn’t die on his first "expedition" was simply that he usually left right after the salmon season was over and bear tummies full, save the last time. Timothy was suicidal and ignorant. There is no more to it than that. His "fight" is wholly insignificant and only sad. The rest of the drama is all Herzog’s master editing and our own perverted expectations. This movie is art, but the art lies in its form and not its content; but to know two people died to yield the right material for Herzog makes me sick, and I feel that Herzog did wrong to go through with it. But enough chit-chat, here’s the last five flicks I saw:
Where the Wild Things Are (2009)
I first read about this movie in a cinema magazine on the loo which had an interview of the director about his own childhood and ADD tendencies. And if you’re strongly into the ADD fetishism of today’s pharmacological wet dream, you’re on board for quite a drug-free ride! Whether you’re pro or anti drug therapy for unruly children, the Max of this movie is a 100% sugar-induced torpedo racing through the story, just as I can imagine the author writing the book did. I have not read the book, but its dramatization on the silver screen leaves little resemblance to great literary works for children like Narnia. For all I know (and could care) the book could be less than 50 pages.
It all takes place in one evening when Max has overreacted and acted out his emotional frustration and confusion, and must run away! He goes to a different place, a different world altogether, a world where the wild things are.
This is where we meet Anthony Soprano from the HBO gangster classic, as the voice of Carol, a big cat-like sort of giant teddy bear, and his weird looking friends. While James Gandolfini is quite the voice actor, I feel his voice was not the right one for this character. The plot is quite symbolic, and too heavily so for a short movie. The film has its moments where it really captures the chaotic Einfühlung (in-living) of being a child, and Lady C commented how she thought it was quite accurate. But she was menstruating at the time.
The movie relies so heavily on already having read the book, methinks, so I am at a loss as to how to interpret some of the scenes. The story’s mood seem to swing from the LSD galaxy of Disney World to the deathly cold and dark tales of Pan’s Labyrinth from 2006. But will it redeem itself in the end to unveil yet another shallow American child-worshipping tale of hubris like The Spiderwick Chronicles? Yes, of course. We’re left in the dark as to whether or not Max learned anything at all through his journey, or if he’s still a self-centered little shithead in need of a good spanking. Let’s leave it there. Read the book instead, that’s sort of what I get from the movie, anyway.
From imaginary monsters to the very real ones. This weird cinematic piece was made for the silver screen, you can tell from all the beautiful landscape shots and attractive lighting. However it is not your average monster movie, take Godzilla or Cloverfield as great examples of combat-filled action movies; instead it is somewhere on the crossroad of a modern love story and District 9. I almost feel this movie’s more about love and photography than monsters. The monsters are more of a backdrop to the stage than actual actors. Instead, we focus on the people, the human beings, that live among and with and of monsters..
I felt it was a clever way to talk about something else, much like the way it’s done in District 9 from 2009. What this something else is is not all that much, really. It’s a boy-girl story about coming home, i.e. finding each other in the unlikeliest of places. It also says something about how we horrify natural things, calling them monsters, when we don’t act very natural ourselves. It’s not an A-level flick but it’s alright.
Troll Hunter, the a.k.a Trolljegeren (2010)
And back to imaginary monsters again! Heavily influenced by Norwegian fairy tales collected by Asbjørnsen & Moe – and visually the drawings of T. H. Kittelsen – director Andre Øvredal brings us The Troll Hunter. It’s a Norwegian mockumentary playing with survivalist stereotypes from so-called ‘storm chasers’ and ‘monster hunters’, mixing it up with well-known monster movies such as Cloverfield, Jurassic Park and King Kong.
In fact, this IS the Norwegian King Kong!
This well-played comedy with a relaxed attitude is a breath of fresh air both within our borders as internationally. I think a lot of Norwegian film is not Norwegian at all, horror trilogy Cold Prey (Fritt Vilt) is a good example, while it appears to be Norwegian its home is clearly Hollywood. The cinematography and some of the technology of the Troll Hunter is clearly American, but they are used as tools to deliver premium Norwegian content that goes right into the national romantic roots of this hilltop. This movie could not have been made elsewhere. Gotta love it!
While the local flavour is a welcome trait to Norwegians such as myself, you gotta wonder whether Non-Norwegians, that have not heard the fairy tales or seen Kittelsen’s work can get all the references, as discussed on the IMDB message board. But you could say the same thing about other country-specific movies too, such as Underground that I reviewed back in 2007, and don’t feel that I didn’t recognize the genius of the film just as anyone would recognize the humour of Troll Hunter. Go watch it if you can get a hold of it! It’ll make a great X-mas present next year.
Dead Snow a.k.a Død Snø (2009)
Not me nor Lady C can stand the shockers, viz. films posing as horror or thrillers when all they do is surprising you negatively. They rely on animal instinct not so much the content of the actual film or how scary it is. It’s just reflexes. So we both had severe doubts when trying to watch Dead Snow even though we have like 3 versions of the DVD lying around the flat.. Finally, my brother Koew asked if we’d seen the movie yet, and if not he could come and help us watch it. So we made a night of it, and having seen the film I’m glad I did.
Don’t get me wrong, it is a shocker type of film, but it’s first and foremost a parody of all the bad old horror movies you’ve ever seen, from the same guy that made Kill Buljo (2007), the Norwegian parody of Kill Bill. Tommy Wirkola has a North Norwegian sense of humour, and it really resonates in most of this film, that seems to go over the top in litres of ox blood spilled on the snow.
It is an homage to old zombie movies. They could have played more on the fact that there are two movie buffs in the group that know quite a lot about zombies and how not to get killed, but in Norwegian terms it’s surprisingly well pulled off. Maybe it all disappeared somewhere in the editing room..! As with Kill Buljo I feel there is a lot of unused potential here, but Wirkola isn’t going anywhere soon, so we might still see a masterpiece coming from his end. Lord knows he has the right ideas.
Last flick this time around is the award-winning instant cult movie Skeletons which is a truly heart warm and remarkable feat of charm and imagination. Starring Andrew Buckley and Ed Gaughan — you will not have heard about these guys unless you’re into the UK film scene — you get a charming and honest performance of two middle-aged men in the prime of their careers. What are their careers exactly? Well, they remove skeletons from people’s closets, so to speak.
The movie gets you hooked into its abnormal and supernatural world right from the start, as you witness the guys go to work with a bureaucratic efficiency that makes me think it must be inspired by Terry Gilliam’s Brazil (1985). And unlike the recent magic film Inception (2010), Skeletons skips all the explaining entirely and you naturally glide into the world of exorcism one step at the time without much ado. I mean, it’s just another job.
I really enjoyed this flick, and just as it is family friendly, its story is perhaps about family too; and of course, not throwing away so much time on old skeletons in the closet. It’s probably the best I’ve seen from the UK since Irina Palm (2007).