The life of a family spanning five generations in the 20th century Europe split in half by WW2, centering around the half brothers Barnum and Fred growing up together in Oslo; Barnum with his father, Fred searching for his.
Young Barnum receives a typewriter from Fred for his birthday, and a writer is born. Barnum's feelings for Vivian grow ever fonder, but when he realizes that Fred likes her as well and confronts him,...
Barnum decides to leave Vivian, and heads back to Røst to get on the wagon. Incidentally, Røst is precisely where he at last finds the answers to the half-brother riddle. When Peder invites him over ...
On Arnold's burial, the arrival of the circus director Mundus causes quite a stir amongst the family. He reveals bits of their late father's past, and the bereaved are in for a surprise or two. Under...
The Half Brother revolves around the life of a family spanning five generations in the 20th century. The book opens in Berlin in 1990, at the film festival, as the Berlin wall is still coming down. It ends in Oslo the day after. But the story begins with Vera, Barnum's mother, on V Day, 1945. At a local level the story is about the half brothers Barnum and Fred growing up together in Oslo; Barnum with his father, Fred searching for his. At a universal level, the story is about Europe after world war II, a continent split in half, which shall become one again. And that too is the quest of this epic: To see two halves become a whole. The narrative chosen for the quest is that of a mystery: Who is the father? As the story progresses, we will realize that it is not just the identity of one father we are looking for.Written by
Mette Marit Bølstad
In 1988, Barnum(Cleve Broch, author with writer's block and low self-worth) is by himself, in a hut on Røst. 1987, he's with Vivian(Kittelsen, very in love with him and she wants a child with him), they just moved in together. In 1945, on the day of liberation in Norway(the setting for all of this), our story starts proper, with the conception of his half-brother, Fred(Kjosås, an anti-social former promising boxer, who, we are told, later disappeared. He's also one of the two most compelling characters the other is his step-father Arnold(Øigarden, charismatic, and we're not quite sure what he does during the day, and where his money come from)). These three timelines will meet, and we will learn a lot about everyone's background, several generations(albeit the stubborn reliance on age make-up over recasting can be awkward). It's mostly linear with a few flashbacks. In part, it is a detective story, a search for a missing male relative.
The rest of the perfectly cast(everyone gives absolutely solid performances, even the child actors) group of main characters are well worth mentioning, as well. Their mother Vera(Hole, often repressed but doesn't take just anything), her mother Boletta(Nielsen, "fun"), her mother and matriarch Den Gamle('the old one', Nørby, speaks her mind and protects the three generations in a house that, for a very long time, is without a man). All they have left of the latter's late husband is a letter detailing a hunt. It's about relationships, sometimes abusive, between people, family members, friends. Themes include the importance of the formative years, people having children to fix their own messed up childhood and the worth of a child to its parent(s). Everyone in some way in their specific situation, and hurt in different ways, by different people. Young men shunned by their fathers may pull away from the outside, and possibly becoming dangerous, detached – the importance of a strong male role model cannot be overstated.
This is complex, such as in the psychology. It is at its best when the focus is on family: tense, atmosphere-laden and addictive. It smoothly mixes in quirk and black comedy. There is some social realism. It does assume the viewer has knowledge of the culture and recent history of Norway and Denmark. There are weak links along the way: a couple of episodes end in essentially the same way, and near the otherwise satisfying conclusion, it loses something. I have not read the novel that this is an adaptation of.
There is a lot of disturbing(some of it sexual) content and strong language, as well as some bloody, brutal violence in this. I recommend this to anyone who enjoys drama. 8/10
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