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1951 view on the mentally ill
Einar and Else have found happiness together, in a marriage that lacks only one thing; a child. Einar, who has a tendency towards melancholy, enters a deep depression, bordering to the psychotic, and the handling of this is the plot of the film.
One thing about watching a Norwegian film from 1951 is the stiff way they talk and the generally theater like acting. But this one even has a political element, easily fascinating 55 years after (and counting). I can't bring myself to doubt the general concern, implied in the film, for the way people with mental disorders are viewed in society (a theme discussed widely in the film is the "fear most people feel for the insane"). But then again - the glorification of electric shock therapy is just - insane, no pun intended. "It's like antibiotics for the soul". People really did believe that.
Anyway, Edith Calmar was one of the first recognized female Norwegian film directors, among other things was the first Norwegian AND a very early woman, to direct film noir. I wouldn't really call this film film noir, but you can certainly recognize some of the aesthetic.
a giant in decline, with a soul in rise
Erik Bye was, and will be remembered as one of the most remarkable culture personalities in the early years of Norwegian television, (ie from the mid-fifties an onward through the 1980ies). He was one of those dinosaurs from the back in the days when there was only one channel, and it was state financed, and its outspoken purpose was to enlighten the people, weird as it may sound. A trained journalist, philologist and dramatizer Bye worked with the Associated Press, the Norwegian department of BBC, and later with the NRK (the Norwegian state broadcaster). Known as one who would fight for the weak of the society, he did outstanding work among other things covering the civil war in Biafra, an event he would often comment on with a bleeding heart later in his life. Bye was also a musician, a poet and an author, among other things.
Still, the younger, Norwegian audience, probably connect Erik Bye, above all with sailor-romanticism and some very boring Saturday night TV entertainment during the eighties, where sailor-songs would be sung-along. For that, I wish the film would have shown even more of the political Bye. That is my biggest lament towards "Giganten".
The documentary consists of different pieces of film taken during the last three years of Erik Byes life (he died the 13th of October 2004), in different physical shapes, and rapidly declining. It focuses, however, not on his illness, but on his music and his musings on society, globalization, world poverty and his own legacy in the arts. The film is nicely made, and worth seeing for the sake of Bye, and it had me weeping at least once (when he talks about how he and his wife word their love for each other), so there's certainly atmosphere to it.
I said, unconvincingly, the film doesn't focus on his illness. The problem, however, is he IS very ill in a lot of the takes, and even though superficially that is not a theme for the movie (there's even a scene where he is talking to a composer who asks him about his health, and he says something to the effect of "that's nothing to talk about"), there's still a feeling the film is trying to portray a *former* giant - in decline. And it's very melancholic. Also, his monologues about politics are not followed up in a coherent way, which gives the feeling that the director is trying to show us a "nice, picturesque old man, who cares about the hungry children in Africa". It would be on the verge of being degrading, had it not been for the dignity inherent in the man portrayed.
Le désordre à vingt ans (1967)
angry and smart
Simone is interviewed, and she talks incessantly, confidently and smartly. Lighting cigarettes, answering seriously to questions like "has pessimism destroyed your life?" she proves her brilliance.
There are also shots from tertulias with her and Sartre, who is more laydback than her, and other french intellectuals from the time, smoking, playing the piano, and most importantly, discussing literature and politics. The way they interact, with that old-mans-dignity which was comme-il-faut before the 1980ies is just fascinating and extremely appealing.
If you never were able to read Simones books straight through, you should watch this film to catch some of the atmosphere it was created in. It might help and it's certainly fascinating to watch them.
Movie with a funny long man
I do to some extent enjoy the Norwegian humour of the 1950ies and 1960ies, though I am absolutely not sure if I really understand it. Lead actor Leif Juster is one of the most famous actors from the black and white-era in Norway, and his perhaps most famous movie, was the farce "fjolls til fjells" (fools in the mountain?).
Leif Juster usually portrayed a disorganized but kind and well meaning man who got himself in to a lot of trouble for being so disorganized but well meaning, and frequently, also for being tall, skinny and funny looking. In this movie he strays from his usual character by being very well organized, in fact he organizes everything, but he does it in such a tall, skinny, funny, kind and well meaning fashion that is gets him into trouble.
They say that in the 60ies people broke into laughter by the mere mention of Mr. Juster. I don't really understand it. But it is a heartwarming thought.
The Yanks Are Coming (1942)
when people get sloppy with their flag waving
This is a musical - sorta. It portrays the adventures of a Broadway actor and songwriter who wants to serve his country - Over There - but is too old to be enlisted in the army. So he finds his own way of going about it.
It's really a fun film to watch, but in 2005 maybe more for the weirdish anthropology than for anything else. In the introduction the voice over talks about how "when people get too cocky and sloppy with their flag waving, some other nation will eventually come along to prove how necessary it really is to wave flags" - or something to an equally nationalistic effect. Also, the time colorite is priceless, there's a scene with some youngsters who can't even be communicated with because of their constant breaking in to jive. Also, if you're in to marching bands, this should be your choice for the evening.