Featuring a cast of many of the finest Norwegian entertainers of that time, Mannen som ikke kunne le (The Man who Could not Laugh) is one of the weirdest Norwegian movies ever made - it is indeed a movie you either love or hate. According to the producers of the movie, it did not have a proper script, and that is highly visible in the final product, introducing to a Norwegian audience a departure from the traditional revue humor still dominating with comedians like Leif Juster, Einar Rose and Arve Opsahl (who also has a small role in the movie).
The storyline centers around Sonell (Rolv Wesenlund), a 30-something bachelor working as a translator of comics, who, when he laughs, makes a weird sound, frightening people away. In order to deal with this he sees a psyhciatrist (Harald Heide-Steen jr.) who starts digging in his troubled childhood at a farm next to the Swedich border. He also meets his Swedish childhood girlfriend, now living in Norway, again, and starts dating her.
Although the movie pivots around this storyline, it also includes other elements, like a night club in a luggage storage compartment locker at a railway station, a camping trip with Sonell and his psychiatrist with copious amounts of alcohol, and an academic seminar on laughter and comedy. And although the movie is black and white, a 10-15 minutes long segment in colour, totally unrelated to the storyline, is also included in the middle, making mockery of national romanticist marriage traditions and ideas.
The humour is of a most absurd kind. If you are familiar with some of the other works of Wesenlund and Heise-Steen (often called Wesensteen) of that time, in particular the TV-series "Og takk for det", you will recognize the humour. But whereas the series mainly consisted of short sketches, this movie includes several sketches, often running parallel, and also a relatively emotional story about a troubled childhood. This approach also raised some criticism at the time, although they got away from it, much due to the cast and the enormous popularity of Wesenlund and Heide-Steen.
Some of the segments almost have a pythonesque feel to them, although the movie was made before the Pythons got together for their first TV-show. Examples include the laughing seminar, glimpses from Sonell's childhood and the compartment locker night club.
The reason I still choose to deduct one star, is that some segments of the movie are somewhat artificially connected to the storyline. This was probably done in order to make it eligible for government funding, which it did receive, but it nevertheless reduces the quality a bit. But that does not prevent me from laughing out loud, time and time again, when watching it.
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