His story is on the DVD version, by the way, in a 15 or 20 minute recent (2003) interview. Adapting this respected Argentine novel was a major challenge for Renán in the years preceding this film's release. Even after its premiere, it was edited twice; 15 minutes were cut for general release in Argentina, and the DVD version is another 7 minutes shorter, at 113 minutes.
The bustling Buenos Aires of the 20s and early 30s is brilliantly recreated; this, no doubt, a result of the director's expertise in the scenic arts, costumes, and attention to details. The actors are all top of the line Argentine actors, with Spanish great Fernando Fernán Gómez in a small but memorable role.
While the film perhaps does not transmit the full message of the book, nor is it as interesting, it's an adequate adaptation. Its excellent visuals and performances somehow make up for other imperfections. The editing of the picture, down to less than two hours in length, also adds to the "view - ability" of the picture. It's all in all a film which shouldn't be missed by those interested in Argentina, its history, literature, and cinema. Other viewers may not be very excited, though as I said, its visuals, plot, and pace make it palatable for all audiences. It's definitely not the interminable claustrophobic "art film." It's worth a couple of hours of your time.
However, the freshness is now gone, and we have in ELLING one of the most overrated non-English language films of 2001. This boring film with its all too familiar plot even made the final cut to be an Oscar nominee as Best Foreign Language Picture!!
Why do Scandinavian directors continue to lecture us about their welfare crazed society, replete with drunks, unwed mothers, and mental cases? We've all been shown for decades and know all too well that these countries (Norwegian and Danish films in particular) are ice-cold, boring social welfare states, populated by dull people, who at their most fun and creative, are terminally alcoholic and promiscuous (the two go hand in hand as if they can't even have sex either unless they're wiped out on their butts -literally).
Enough already. ELLING is one more Scandinavian bore to be avoided. We expected more from this young Norwegian director, but he has deceived us... at least us film festival fans, who are sick of seeing the same old and tired characters and situations in Scandinavian cinema. It's a good thing other themes are being explored, such as the exploitation of Russian women as sex slaves and small Norwegian town doctor as a cross dresser.
See those "new" Scandinavian movies, and skip this tired, beaten and dead frozen horse. If you must see an "Elling," then wait until 2003. As you probably noticed upon researching this movie in this site, another ELLING awaits us next year. Take your chances on that one.
The film is as outstanding as is "American History X." The young lead is also. As was Edward Norton of course. The theme is very similar, and just as well developed... Characters include the older man with Neo-Nazi ideas leading young people with little or no father figures stray, the protected or protective brother figure, the strong mother figure, the jail scenes with all the violence to be expected. The list of parallels is endless.
Yes, you may have seen it all before. But this flick is worthwhile. Face it - the topic perhaps does belong more to Berlin (need I say it -the birth place of Neo-nazism) than to Los Angeles. And the Germans have finally made a film about a culture they originated, which is outstanding in many ways.
The inside look at the old GDR (East Germany) is very informative, and well told to non-Germans. Germans may think otherwise of this recurring "East German" theme, a staple plot setting in German cinema for the last 12 years with no end in sight. But even if that is old to you, there is so much to appreciate in the movie that it will not disappoint. Certainly, the lead performance by the Berlin teenager (age at the time of filming anyway) is chilling, and impactful. We watch, accompany and feel his transformation intimately. In my last comparison with "American History X," I assure you the lead in this movie is every bit as dense and intense as Edward Norton was.
Too bad it has not been shown (yet, perhaps) to more international audiences. I saw it in late October 2002 at the São Paulo Film Festival. I do definitely recommend it (my rating 10/10). See this one on the big screen when it comes your way.