Following a prologue set in war-torn former Yugoslavia, the film follows several different Christmas celebrations in the small Norwegian town of Skogli. Paul is a thirty-three-year-old laborer who marches into his doctor's office demanding a prescription, then proceeds to lay bare all his woes. The doctor is beleaguered by his own marital and financial difficulties (he's left his upset wife to work emergency calls on Christmas Eve). There's also an elderly man preparing an esoteric ritual, a vagrant who runs into an old flame, a middle-aged couple in the throes of passion, a boy hopelessly in love with his Muslim neighbor and a young émigré couple whose car breaks down as the woman goes into labor. Written by
Caught the last screening of this lovely little gem at TIFF yesterday afternoon. Most of the stories are a brilliant blend of heartbreaking darkness and excruciatingly beauty, with one notable exception. The manner in which Bent Hamer crafts the tales is - in a word - astonishing. He has inspired me to search out the collection of short stories that forms the basis of the script.
The cast is note perfect, and the film is lit so beautifully that several of the characters look positively succulent. And yes, that sounds odd, but after you see the film you'll understand.
The ending, which I will not spoil, literally made many of us in the audience gasp. And please stuff a few fresh tissues in your pocket, although it should be noted that I'm a bit of a soft touch.
A wonderful film indeed, Mr. Hamer.
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