Family is the most important thing in the world to Kaja. She is an eternal optimist in spite of living with a man who would rather go hunting with the boys, and who refuses to have sex with ... Read allFamily is the most important thing in the world to Kaja. She is an eternal optimist in spite of living with a man who would rather go hunting with the boys, and who refuses to have sex with her because she isn't particularly attractive anymore. Whatever. That's life. But when the... Read allFamily is the most important thing in the world to Kaja. She is an eternal optimist in spite of living with a man who would rather go hunting with the boys, and who refuses to have sex with her because she isn't particularly attractive anymore. Whatever. That's life. But when the perfect couple moves in next door, Kaja struggles to keep her emotions in check. Not only... Read all
This is a modest film, for sure, and if you take the basic element of it, it's a story told many times. But it's told very well, and it has two extra layers that give it a really odd, pointed humor and pathos (both). You might reduce it all by saying: how Scandinavian. Maybe.
Most of the plot is simple. A sophisticated city couple move to the country to live for awhile. (We are never sure why, and they don't work, but it's more than just a holiday.) The wife (played by the chiseled Danish t.v. actress Maibritt Saerens) is reluctant in the opening scene, but the ground is covered with snow and it seems like a necessary adventure.
They rent a little house from a country couple who live next door, and the most famous star of the movie is this woman, a simple and idealistic kind of woman (Agnes Kittelsen). She must be the reason for the movie, because she is naive to the point of blindness to her situation (or so we are led to think). Her husband is a slightly abusive guy who gets their son on his side in affairs.
The city couple/country couple dynamic is nothing new, and it has some of the familiar expected results, including a genuine mutual admiration between the two women (one appreciating country life, the other admiring urban chic). But a rivalry also is brewing, and some infidelity results. With the nice new complication of a gay element, which I will leave vague and simply say that it happens in a very natural and almost normal way.
This is all pretty good stuff, and the making of a simple but satisfying human drama. The two additional layers change the tone of it all. The first is almost silly you would think, but in little inserts, artificially and comically positioned as markers, is a kind of Greek chorus—played by a Scandinavian barbershop quartet in English. It's hilarious and surreal. And it makes you reflect on the events as theater, not quite as a depiction of real people.
The other layer is tougher to take, and is given brief but critical screen time. The country couple has a boy of their own, and the city couple has an adopted Ethiopian child about the same age. In an apparently innocent way, the white child plays slave master to the black child, who plays slave (willingly, and with no serious physical harm). The dynamic is chilling to a viewer, and only slowly do the parents catch on (partly because they are all absorbed in their own drama). There is a terrific five second resolution to this near the end, by the city woman, and as cruel and crude as it seems, it's perfect and necessary. And it cuts through all the other crap, somehow, too.
By the end you see a kind of fable played out, and it might be a bit simple, but it's sweet and sad and funny enough to work. I liked this more than I thought I would at first.
- Dec 13, 2013