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Sean G. Griffin
Wonderful off-beat comedy. Clever writing and great performances
DARK HORSE (Dagur Kári - Denmark/Iceland 2005).
"Volksne mennesker" is the second feature from Icelandic director Dagur Kári, after his much praised debut "Nói Albinói" (2003), which I haven't seen yet, but I can't wait after catching this little gem. For this film, he relocated the story from the icy coasts of Iceland to the Danish capital of Copenhagen, where we meet Daniel (Jacob Cedergren), a graffiti artist who sprays some stylish love declarations on the wall. Not his own love interests, but from others who want to surprise their girlfriends and pay him some under the counter money for it. In many ways Daniel is the working definition of the term loser. He has no money, no work, he's lazy and hasn't got a clue what going on around him ('How am I gonna be a father? I don't even know the name of the prime minister?'). He doesn't really care about anything and doesn't bother to pay the rent until he's kicked out. Above all, his social skills (more clumsy than impolite) leave a lot to be desired, but by sheer luck, charm and good looks he seems to be passing by just well.
The film is filled with many absurd but very funny conversations, that are sometimes explained through Daniel's supposed dyslexia. When Daniel drives around the city and ignores a 'no turn left' sign, he excuse to the police is: 'I didn't understand, I thought I was obliged to turn left, I'm dyslexic.'
Almost every character in the film seems to have lost it, and can be categorized from a little quirky to completely off the wall. His obese friend Roger (Nicolas Bro), nicknamed "Grandpa", works at some kind of sleep research clinic, and dreams of becoming a professional football referee. He is just as crooked as him, but in a slightly different way with a rather misplaced sense of self-righteousness and self-confidence. But one day Daniel meets the mysterious girl Franc (a wonderful performance by Tilly Scott Pedersen, I'm absolutely smitten about her), who works at a local bakery. When the two meet, she is under the influence of psychedelic mushrooms and vomits all over the floor of the bakery and gives her a ride home in his little Fiat. But he falls in love with this girl, who still lives with her twisted sex-starved mother and is practically the female version of him, going through life just as careless as he does.
Near the end the initial comedic element makes way for a more dramatic turn, when the characters have to face some real choices. In the first hour, they're all so sketchily introduced, it hard to see them as real characters. And I wasn't very impressed by the much praised 16mm black-and-white cinematography by Manuel Alberto Claro, which was kind of sloppy and inconsistent, with many scenes inexplicably down lit. But these flaws are easily forgiven, with this kind of fresh and observative writing and all these wonderful performances. Tilly Scott Pedersen's smile and her infatuating on-screen presence alone had me going till the end.
This is not just some desperately quirky indie, it's filled with wonderful characters, very funny and with a beautiful music score as well. In some scenes, the score seemed exactly the same as in the German MUXMAÜSCHENSTILL (2004). Not a perfect film, but very enjoyable. I'm looking forward to any of Dagur Kári's future work.
Camera Obscura --- 8/10
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