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Paha Maa * Aku Louhimies (2005)

Paha MaaThis Finish film has the international title “Frozen Land” and shows a chain of events with each another main character. A chain, because the characters are linked in some way and a new link starts from the previous. “Paha Maa” shows a rather depressing daily life of people whose lifes took a down turn. From low-life to middle class, all characters go down the drain. The film has a bit of the Scandinavian kind of black humour, but after a while there is not much to laugh. Not that “Paha Maa” is a very depressive film, but it is quite raw and real-life and the box says. Not bad too!

The Kingdom 1 & 2 * Lars von Trier (94/97)

Kingdom 1 & 2I already had the “Riget” series, the first on crappy UK import DVD and the second on VHS, read my reviews by “browsing” “Riget”. Last week my eye fell on a 20 euros 2 DVD box with both series. That is even cheaper than my videotapes and I would have them on DVD and the first series with subtitles. To my major enjoyment I can also tell you that this box left all episode intro and outros and this release left 8 uncut hour+ episodes and not cut back to 50 minute episodes. This is the ultimate “Riget” box! Every episode starts with the story about the swamp and every episode ends with a little story by the director; the way it should be! So I suppose all you “Riget” fans out there might also want to lay your hands on this box, even if you already have the series like myself. Country mates best go to the Free Records Shop, since it is cheaper there than elsewhere.

Hvordan Vi Slipper Af Med De Andre * Anders Rønnow Klarlund * 2007

How To Get Rid Of The OthersDamn, these Danes sure make films on the edge, black comedy with a political twist. “How To Get Rid Of The Others” sure is another step further than for example “Adam’s Apples” that I reviewed some time ago. “Slipper Af Med De Andre” is of an to me unknown director and has a story that is a fist in the face of the Danish social system. The government has decided to get rid of everybody who costs the state more than is gained from this person, so in a holiday period, people living on welfare, alcoholics, leftwing rebels, etc. are arrested, taken to an empty school builing and interrogated. If they can’t come up with anything that they did for society, they are executed. Quite a story indeed! And should you think that I gave away the film, don’t worry, this is only the information that you can find on the box. The film opens with a magnificent scene that sets the tone for an hour-and-a-half full of harsch humour, Scandinavian filmographic maddness, sharp dialogues and most of all, very real-life characters. The film is so on the edge that I sometimes wondered if it was still meant to be a comedy. You sure have to have some sick sense of humour to appreciate a film like this! I like these Danes looking for the borders, but I do wonder how far the next border-pushing-story will go.

Adams Æbler * Anders Thomas Jensen * 2005

Adams ApplesJensen has worked on a few “dogma” films and I guess his most famous film is “Mifunes Sidste Sang” (“Mifunes Last Song”) (1999) (see elsewhere). He is a productive fellow especially as a writer, judging his IMDb “filmography”. “Adam’s Apples” is presented as a “black comedy”, but I myself do not really think this is a comedy. It is more comparable to a film such as “Salmer Fra Kjøkkenet” (“Kitchen Stories”) of Bent Hamer (2003) (see elsewhere), a weird drama with an absurd, but very subtle sense of humour. In “Adam’s Apples” the skinhead Adam is sent to a preacher called Ivan for the last part of his imprisonment. Ivan soon proves to be an overly trusting and naive man seeing no evil in anything. He even doesn’t change his mind about Adam after the latter beats him up. There are other people in the small community, such as the terrorist Khalid, the alcoholic kleptomaniac Gunnar and the ex-Nazi Poul. Everything anyone tries to do goes wrong and Ivan says that this is the devil testing their faith. With Adam’s arrival things change in the community dramatically.
“Adam’s Apples” subtely drives over “holy houses” as we call them in the Netherlands, but without becomming purposely insulting. Also things that we normally take for granted are reversed. Poul used to work in a concentration camp, but this is not a bad thing afterall; Adam has a photo of the handsome Hitler on his wall and Khalid robs tankstations for a good cause. Mockery is made of the Christian faith and a mentally disabled child made fun off. This results in some amusing scenes and the film has an overall absurdistic atmosphere that doesn’t make it offensive, quite the contrary in my opinion. A nice film from Denmark, no masterpiece, but the Scandinavians again prove that they have a weird sense of humour and can make very original films.

Sånger Från Andra Våningen * Roy Andersson * 2000

songs from the second floor

I had read quite a few things about this film, but it took some effort to see it in our local ‘filmhouse’. Some people compare this film with Monty Python’s Flying Circus, others just find it hilarious. As for myself, well, it is definately a strange film with a strange kind of humour, but Monty Python? nah. By far not as hilarious and dumb and also Andersson doesn’t have the quality level (or not as much my sense of humour).

“Sånger” consists of different strange scenes which either or not have something to do with eachother. Often the only link between two scenes is that the same persons are in it. Overall there is some kind of a story in the film which is actually rather depressing. Indeed there is a lot of humour in a really vague and absurd style which sometimes does bring memories of Monty Python, but all through the film there is not that much to laugh I think. Several scenes are massive with a lot of people and enormously strange and I wonder what some scenes have to do with the rest.

So, if you like absurd humour and you can stand the extremely slow Scandinavian way of filming, try and see “Sånger Från Andra Våningen”. <3>

Salmer Fra Kjøkkenet * Bent Hamer * 2003

kitchen stories

Here we have an absurd Scandinavian film that -as far as I know- has nothing to do with any Dogma95 or similar currents. The story is completely weird. A Swedish kitchen-manufacturer investigates the kitchen-habbits of Swedish housewives, but the story starts when the investigation goes towards single Norwegian men. Observers live in their special mobile homes next to the house of their “subjects”. In the “subjects” kitchen, a high chair is placed to make the observations. The story is set in the 50’ies Scandinavian post-war situation when there were differences and rivalrly between the Scandinavian countries, especially Norway and Sweden. The film begins wonderfully with a great voice-over and strange jazzy music and an outside of the findings of the observations of Swedish housewives, great cars, caravans and interiors. From the moment that “observer” Folke Nilssen arrives in the house of “subject” Isak Bjørvik, the films becomes awfully slow, but with a subtle humour, funny situations and strange dialogues. Pitty enough after the strong start, the film slowly grows towards and rather mediocre and overdramatic ending. Totally original, nonetheless, but definitely not brilliant. <20/3/06><2>

Riget (The Kingdom) II * Lars von Trier * 1997

E 20 for three videos isn’t too much money, right? Too bad that I had to get a horrible dvd-version of the first series in order to get the whole thing (reviewed elsewhere). Three videos exactly the way you get the thing on tv, nothing more, nothing less, PERFECT!. So this time I DID get to see the intros with the swamp, the hilarious song and intro AND Lars’ stories at the end of every episode.

The Kingdom I is still pretty much of a soap-series with some strange elements, but it builds up to an extremely crazy end. No waiting when you have everything at home, so I immediately continued with these second series (of three years later!). These are MUCH darker, crazier and absurd than series I. Again I am not going to tell you too much about this ghost-story-hospital-soap. If you like the bizare kind of tv-making and you haven’t seen The Kingdom, be sure to see it! Also the second series have a very open end, but I don’t believe Von Trier will ever make a third series. <5>

Riget (The Kingdom) * Lars von Trier * 1994

A while ago I bought Kingdom II very cheap on video (see review elsewhere) and the search started for Kingdom I on video. It WILL be repressed some time, but it is currently sold out. After several months waiting I decided not to wait for the double-video (in one box) but buy the rather expensive English dvd-version. A BIG DISAPPOINTMENT for lovers of these brilliant series by Lars von Trier! You get two dvd’s. The first has episodes 1 and 2 and the second 3 to 5. The first dvd also has some documentary which doesn’t add much. Of course the series are brilliant and there is nothing wrong with the quality, but the makers of the dvd made a few horrible mistakes! When putting dvd1 in your player you get some kind of intro, nice but not necessary. Then a menu in which you can choose to play “episode one and two”, “episode one”, “episode two”, “episode three to five” or the documentary. Of course I wasn’t planning on chosing the first option, because then I would miss the stories of the director that come after every episode. To my major disapproval the episodes start immediately. Not the intro with the chloride-swamp and the story of the building of the hospital and no silly song! At the end you jump back to the menu in the last second of the episode, so no story by Lars and even no credits! What on earth have the producers of this dvd been thinking? What is the use of being able to watch the episodes joint together? You are not able to chose subtitles or even watch without them. Why the hell did they leave out the intro and the end? WHAT A SHAME!!

To the series then. Of course this is one of the best tv-series ever. A soap-series about a hospital in the vein of ER, but with a sick twist. Strange ghost-stories, insane characters and unexpected twists. I am not going to say more, you will have to watch it and love it (but preferable another version!). <4 for the series>

Naboer * Pål Sletaune * 2005

next door

“Naboer” (“neighbour”, but the English title is “Next Door”) is a strange Norwegian horror in which a young man gets manic over the leaving of his girlfriend. Or did she leave because of his mania? Naboer is a claustrophic and slightly Videodrome-like sex-and-violence film with here and there a Japanese atmosphere. The result is not groundbreaking, but alright with some good scenes and a nice atmosphere. -20/12/06-

Mifunes Sidste Sang * Søren Kragh-Jacobsen * 1999

mifune’s last song

After “Festen” and “Idioterne” this was the third film made according to the rules of Lars von Triers “Dogme95”. Indeed it took a long time before I first saw this film. However all/most dogme-films are made by different directors, those that I saw so far are similar in style. Of course there are rules for the lighting, decors, etc. but also the sence of humour, characters and making of stories is quite alike.

Mifune is about a man named Kresten who hasn’t seen his family for 10 years. When his father dies he goes back to the remote farm where he grew up. There he has to take care of his mentally not 100% brother. Since they both can’t cook, make coffee or clean up, Kresten hires a house-cleaner in the form of the prostitute Liva. Of course Kresten and Liva fall in love, Kresten’s wife stops by and wants a divorse, Liva’s son turns from asocial to kind and Rud (the brother) doesn’t quite get it all.

As in all Dogme-films that I saw so far there is a serious case of over-reacting to situations and again brought with a weird (Danish?) kind of humour. Many people think that Mifune isn’t the best of the first three Dogmes, but I can’t think of any reason why. All Dogme’s are in my opinion not brilliant but quite amusing. <3>