Scandinavian Series

Starting from April 2011 the Philm Club will screen a Scandinavian Series that will include movies from world famous directors such as Ingmar Bergman, Lars von Trier, Aki Kaurismäki or Balthasar Kormákur, as well as less-known, smaller productions from Scandinavia and Iceland.

Salmer fra kjøkkenet (Kitchen Stories), 2003
Directed by Bent Hamer
Norwegian and Swedish with English subtitles, 95 min.
In post war Sweden it was discovered that every year, an average housewife walks the equivalent number of miles as the distance between Stockholm and Congo, while preparing her family meals. So the Home Research Institute sent out eighteen observers to a rural district of Norway to map out the kitchen routines of single men. The researchers were on twenty-four-hour call, and sat in special strategically placed chairs in each kitchen. Furthermore, under no circumstances were the researchers to be spoken to, or included in the kitchen activities. (imdb)
A warmly observed humanist comedy about misguided social conditioning and the redeeming value of friendship and individuality, Bent Hamer’s “Kitchen Stories” has the same appealing light touch as the Norwegian director’s 1995 debut “Eggs.” This film also has a similar odd couple dynamic and fascination with difficult yet enduring male relationships. (David Rooney, variety.com)

Screening: Friday April 8th, 6 P.M., Zrinyi 14, room 412.

SWEDEN
Persona, 1966
Directed by Ingmar Bergman
Swedish with English subtitles, 85 min.

A young nurse, Alma, is put in charge of Elisabeth Vogler: an actress who is seemingly healthy in all respects, but will not talk. As they spend time together, Alma speaks to Elisabeth constantly, never receiving any answer. Alma eventually confesses her secrets to a seemingly sympathetic Elisabeth and finds that her own personality is being submerged into Elisabeth’s persona. (imdb)
Bergman believed that “film should communicate psychic states, not merely project pictures”. It’s therefore appropriate that “Persona”, with its doublings, mirror imagery, and uncanny fusions, should so seamlessly merge reality and fantasy. Strikingly self-referential – the opening credits include shots of a film projector, whilst during one argument the film itself breaks down, melting a hole in the screen – “Persona” lends itself to a variety of plausible interpretations. Partly it can be seen as a metaphor for the process of psychoanalysis, with Elisabet as the silent analyst and Alma the regressing patient, whose desires eventually erupt. Partly it explores the potentially exploitative relationship between artist and audience, and the difficulty of art in responding to the horrors of “real” life: thus Elisabet is visibly shocked by TV images from Vietnam and World War Two. And perhaps most fundamentally, “Persona” examines, to quote the film’s female psychiatrist, “the hopeless dream to be”, and how hard it is to penetrate beyond the masks we wear and the roles we play in our lives. Brilliantly performed by Andersson and Ullmann, and atmospherically photographed by Sven Nykvist, this is one of the landmark films of post-war cinema. (Tom Dawson, BBC)

Screening: April 15th, 6 P.M., Zrinyi 14, room 412.

NORWAY
Elling, 2001

Directed by Petter Næss
Norwegian with English subtitles, 89 min.

When his mother, who has sheltered him his entire 40 years, dies, Elling, a sensitive, would-be poet, is sent to live in a state institution. There he meets Kjell Bjarne, a gentle giant and female-obsessed virgin in his 40s. After two years, the men are released and provided with a state-funded apartment and stipend with the hope they will be able to live on their own. Initially, the simple act of going around the corner for groceries is a challenge. Through a friendship born of desperate dependence, the skittish Elling and the boisterous, would-be lover of women, Kjell Bjarne, discover they can not only survive on the outside, they can thrive. But as their courage grows, the two find oddball ways to cope with society, striking up the most peculiar friendships in the most unlikely places. (imdb)
Elling, the deadpan Norwegian comedy is the kind of story that in the wrong hands would be cloying and cornball, but director Petter Naess has the right hands. He gives the movie edge and darkness, is unsentimental about mental illness, makes his heroes into men instead of pets, and still manages to find a happy ending. In a subtle, half-visible way Elling follows the movie formula of other movies about mentally impaired characters (the picnic outing is an obligatory scene). But this film has no lessons to teach, no insights into mental illness, no labels, no morals. It is refreshingly undogmatic about its characters, and indeed Elling and Kjell may not be mentally ill at all–simply unused to living in the real world. The humor comes from the contrast between Elling’s prim value system, obviously reflecting his mother’s, and Kjell’s shambling, disorganized, good-natured assault on life. (Roger Ebert)

Screening: April 29th, 6 P.M., Zrinyi 14, room 412.

Lilja 4-Ever, 2002
Directed by Lukas Moodysson
Russian and Swedish with English subtitles, 109 min.

Lilja 4-Ever provides a human face for a story that has become familiar in the newspapers. It follows a 16-year-old girl from the former Soviet Union as she is abandoned by her mother, places her faith in the wrong stranger, and is sold into prostitution. She is naive and innocent, and what looks like danger to us looks like deliverance to her. That there are countless such stories makes this one even more heartbreaking. (Roger Ebert)
An emotional roller coaster ride through a living hell, “Lilya 4-Ever” is a hard-hitting, dark and tragic story that rarely lets up. With this story of a young Russian girl who escapes one hopeless existence only to find another in Sweden, helmer/writer Lukas Moodysson (“Fucking Amal,” “Together”) firmly establishes himself as the most interesting director working in Scandinavia today. (Gunnar Rehlin, variety.com)

Screening: May 6th, 6 P.M., Zrinyi 14, room 412.

ICELAND
Brúðguminn (White Night Wedding), 2008

Directed by Baltasar Kormákur
Icelandic with English subtitles, 96 min.

Jon, a middle-aged professor is going to get married tomorrow, for the second time, to one of his ex-students half his age. But it’s not all roses. First, there’s his cranky mother-in-law-to-be who violently opposes the marriage and who demands repayment of Jon’s loan before the wedding night. Second, his plans to build a golf course on the little island of Flatey where they live aren’t going at all to plan. Third, his extremely drunk best man is on the loose without any shoes and lastly, the continual presence of his emotional first wife is haunting his every move. When the guests start flocking to the island, Jon starts getting cold feet. (imdb)
White Night Wedding can avoid excessive exposition in favour of advancing the plot at pace. The bizarre society of the tiny island Flatey is made vivid, and it is clear Kormákur is quite comfortable in the rural regions of his homeland after the success of both this film and Jar City in making the most barren parts of Iceland appealing. There is a progressive decline into absurdity in its latter stages, as the first two-thirds of the film demonstrate a deft wit and contain enough drama to balance the unbalanced behaviour of the supporting cast. It is really only in the wedding sequence that balance is lost and the film resorts to slapstick – while some will find this hilarious, it won’t be for everyone. Based on the Chekov play ‘Ivanov’, White Night Wedding could hardly be blamed for sticking around to make its point, and yet the film feels to have reached its natural ending only to continue for another ten minutes or so and have its meaning entirely changed. (Mark Lavercombe)

Screening: May 13th, 6 P.M., Zrinyi 14, room 412.

DENMARK
Idioterne (The Idiots), 1998
Dogme #2, written by Lars von Trier
Danish with English subtitles, 117 minutes, with an introduction about the Dogma movement.

Denmark is famous for its generosity with mentally ill people. That is, when it comes to money and health care. But what about public attitude? A group of anarchist pretending to be mental patients test the limits of tolerance revealing awkwardness, hypocrisy and ambiguity in the society around them, but also within their own group. Their leader’s aim is to “go back to the basics”, that is, to get rid of all restraints, social and psychological, by discovering their inner idiot, the true, honest, naive, simple self. It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to interpret this story as an allegory of the Dogma movement itself. But it is a generally disregarded aspect of this film that it is the second of Lars von Trier’s trilogy about female sacrifice, so it is also the story of Karen, who is the last to come, and the last to leave the group. She emerges as the only one true and authentic enough to take the social experiment seriously, at the price of an extreme sacrifice.

Screening: May 20th, 6 P.M., Zrinyi 14, room 412.

Italiensk for begyndere (Italian for Beginners), 2000
Dogme #12, written by Lone Scherfig
Danish, Italian with English subtitles, 112 min.

This was the first truly blockbuster dogma, the first real dogma comedy, the first real dogma romance. A bunch of lovable, weird characters are looking for a cure for loneliness and end up finding much more than that in the local Italian course. Lone Shefrig’s sensitivity and humor combine perfectly with the dogma rules and incredible performances from all the actors involved.
A young minister, a widower, is temporarily assigned to a church whose suspended pastor drove parishioners away; he stays at a hotel where he meets Jørgen, who’s alone approaching middle age. Jørgen’s friend Finn, a temperamental restaurant manager, may be about to be fired. Finn’s assistant is Giulia, a lovely young Italian who prays for a husband. Olympia, a clumsy bakery clerk, has an ornery father; Karen, a hairdresser, has a mother who is very ill. The paths of these six characters cross at church, in the restaurant, at the hotel, and at an Italian class at the local adult school. Loneliness, grief, solace, romance, and love may meet ‘nel mezzo del cammini di nostra vita.’ (imdb)

Screening: May 27th, 6 P.M., Zrinyi 14, room 412.

Nói albino, 2003
Directed by Dagur Kári
Icelandic with English subtitles, 82 min.
A wonder boy and drop-out on an Icelandic village scale, Nói (17), dreams of escaping from his remote fjord with Iris, a city girl who works at the local filling station. But Nói’s clumsy attempts to escape don’t get him anywhere, and only get out of hand. (imdb)
The debut feature of Icelandic director Dagur Kári has the deadpan, melancholic tone that brings to mind the poker-faced entertainment of Finland’s Aki Kaurismäki. Everybody here is slightly off-kilter, providing some droll humour: there’s Nói’s taciturn, shotgun-wielding granny (Anna Fridriksdóttir), glumly performing her aerobic exercises; the priest on the motorized sled giving instructions on the precise depth of a grave via a walkie-talkie; and the lugubrious Kierkegaard-quoting bookseller, who muses: “Hang yourself and you’ll regret it. Don’t hang yourself and you’ll regret it.” Contrasting the forbidding whiteness of the natural environment with sickly-green interiors, Dagur Kári incorporates a mellow score from his own band Slowblow. And despite having left clues along the way, this talented filmmaker still manufactures a powerful surprise with an apocalyptic resolution, which nevertheless manages to offer a glimpse of a better future. (Tom Dawson, BBC)

Screening: June 3rd, 6 P.M., Zrinyi 14, room 412.

FINLAND
Mies vailla menneisyyttä (The Man Without a Past), 2002

Directed by Aki Kaurismäki
Finnish with English subtitles, 97 min.

The second part of Aki Kaurismäki’s “Finland” trilogy, the film follows a man who arrives in Helsinki and gets beaten up so severely he develops amnesia. Unable to remember his name or anything from his past life, he cannot get a job or an apartment, so he starts living on the outskirts of the city and slowly starts putting his life back on track. (imdb)
Kaurismäki is an acquired taste. His characters tend to plant their feet and deliver their dialogue as if eternal truths are being spoken, and the camera tends to plant itself and regard them without a lot of fancy work. His characters don’t smile much, they nod sadly a lot, they smoke and think and expect the worst. And yet there is a joy in them, a deep humor that’s all the richer because it springs from human nature and the absurdity of existence, instead of depending on one-liners and gags. If there is something funny about a container having a landlord with a savage watchdog, we have to figure that out for ourselves, because the movie is not going to nudge us in the ribs and laugh for us. (Roger Ebert)

Screening: June 10th, 6 P.M., Zrinyi 14, room 412.

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