Dir/scr: Bent Hamer. Norway-Germany-France. 2014. 90mins
This is not a film to see in a rush. A gentle, soft-spoken, philosophical reflection on the human fallacy of trusting anything exact and precise down to the smallest detail, Bent Hamer toys here with an almost impossibly dry subject, the Kilogram Convention in Paris. But no need to be discouraged, for behind it hides a very humane story, alternately sad and smiling, fashioned with the utmost care, unfolding stately at a calculated pace that underlines the subtle humour lying just under the surface. Audiences that are willing to dig that far are in for a treat.
The plot turns the dour, strict, unbending blonde young woman, who barely smiles and never shows her feelings – if she has any - into a handsome, warm and appealing human being.
The Kilogram convention in Paris is an obscure, but evidently extremely important, event whose purpose is discuss the overwhelming importance of one single, uniform kilogram the world over, for God forbid what disasters will come down on our heads if such a thing is not ensured beyond the slightest doubt. The impending risk that the physical kilogram, held in a Paris vault, may be replaced soon by a scientifically defined one, adds a kind of nostalgic dimension to this tale, for even that last bastion of the old world is about to crumble.
Marie (Ana Dahl Torp), to work at Norway’s Bureau of Weights and Measures. She is an exceedingly pedantic young woman, who lives an immaculate life in an immaculate society. Everything in around her, whether at home or at work, is nothing less than rigorously organised. The only messy thing in her life is the husband that she has just separated from, who seems, for the entire length of the film, to remove his share of objects from their common flat. No wonder she stays as far away from him as possible.
Every morning, with clockwise precision, she goes to work, doing all day long the most anodyne jobs, or at least that is how they look in the eyes of an innocent observer. At midday, she smokes a cigarette with her father, who is also her boss, both of them squeezed in the narrow corridor destined by their spic-and-span organisation for such unsavory occupations. Then she goes back home, to a perfectly designed, painted and organised Scandinavian abode, makes sure hubby is out of the way, has a glass of wine and goes to sleep on her half of a king-size bed.
Complications arise in this perfectly planned existence when Marie’s father has a heart attack and she has to replace him for the Paris convention. Her profound trust in absolute values, not only in weights and measures but also in private life will be gradually - for there is no rush in Hamer’s film - shaken by this unchartered visit to the City of Light. Life sort of wiggles its way into Marie’s dormant subconscious, until she will have to accept that nothing is as absolute as she tends to believe. As a matter of fact, one of the persons she meets at the convention who calls himself Pi (Laurent Stocker) and is apparently far more than the gardener he seems to be, actually claims that in certain circumstances, a bit of chaos can be a kind of blessing.
The plot turns the dour, strict, unbending blonde young woman, who barely smiles and never shows her feelings – if she has any - into a handsome, warm and appealing human being, with Hamer’s script cleverly dragging in her path all sorts of obstacles that cannot be measured or weighed with any degree of precision, be it affection, grief, sympathy or even love.
The implied irony is evident all through, whether it is the perfect, meticulous choice of sets and colors, in John Erik Kaada’s tongue-in-cheek soundtrack; in the crystal-clear images provided by John Christian Rosenlund; the unhurried, stead pace of the montage and of course, by the obvious contrast between Norway and Paris. And, more than anything else, there is Ane Dahl Torp’s performance, starting with a blank, schoolmarm, unforgiving expression, moving next into a distraught, confused one, all the way through to the glowing beauty of the final sequence.
Production company: Bulbul Film
International sales: Les Films du Losange, email@example.com
Producer: Bent Hamer
Cinematography: John Christian Rosenlund
Production designer: Astrid Astrup, Tim Pannen
Music: John Erik Kaada
Main cast: Ane Dahl, Torp, Laurent Stocker, Hildegun Riise, Stein Winge, Per Christian Ellefsen, Dinara Droukarova