Dir: Anne Sewitsky. Norway. 2010. 84mins


Norwegian couples in a snowbound suburb explore adultery as a cure for cabin fever as Christmas approaches in Happy, Happy, the feature debut of Anne Sewitsky.  Sex doesn’t conquer all, but it does make new tracks in the snow.

Anne Sewitsky directs delicately, with an eye for signs of relationships faltering and for the space in which new attractions can’t be resisted. 

Happy, Happy is likely to be seen outside Norway on the festival circuit, although the comedy could reach art houses in North America and Europe. The tender portrait by a woman director of two couples and their two sons connected with a female public at its Sundance premiere, a promising sign for US distribution, yet the film’s Christmas setting would probably delay any release until next November. Agents considering larger-budget projects will have their eyes on this emerging director.

The plot in Happy, Happy involves a lonely character seeking the intimacy that she lacks at home. Kaja, a schoolteacher of happy moods and simple tastes, lives in a small town with her husband Eirick and their son. When handsome Sigve and his tall blonde lawyer wife Elizabeth move in next door from the city with their adopted Ethiopian son, the sophisticated and unsophisticated rub elbows.

Smiling Kaja works hard to please the new neighbors. Neglected by humorless Eirick, who’s pursuing men rather than moose on his hunting trips, soon she’s rubbing more than elbows with Sigve.  

The affair doesn’t stay secret for long, and the script by Ragnhild Tronvoll turns to manoeuvres of resentment and revenge. The two boys, sensing tension and feeling pain, play out their version of that game as colonial master and African slave. The laughable pairing couldn’t be more politically incorrect. 

Anne Sewitsky directs delicately, with an eye for signs of relationships faltering and for the space in which new attractions can’t be resisted. 

As Kaja, Agnes Kittelsen could be the Sally Hawkins of Norway, sunny as the dutiful mother and wife, but fragile.  (She also resembles the English actress.) The literal translation of the title in Norwegian, ‘Insanely Happy’, points to her vulnerability.

The landscape of Happy, Happy is neither lyrical nor nostalgic in the humdrum town where the local choir becomes a battleground for Kaja and Sigve’s wife Elizabeth.  Cinematographer Anna Myking shows us the outdoors mostly as it shapes the evolving bonds in the story. Much of what we see are interiors in which the characters are trapped, or caught in the act.  

Yet Happy, Happy makes comedy out of lust for what suddenly comes within reach. The adults’ struggle for freedom or love is a clumsy one, and the two boys are as hilarious as they are poignant in their enactment of roles that they have observed but don’t understand. 

Production company: MaipoMinimal

International Sales: TrustNordisk, www.trustnordisk.com

Producer: Synnove Horsdal

Screenwriter: Ragnhild Tronvoll

Cinematography: Anna Myking

Editor: Christopher Heie

Music: Stein Berge Svendsen

Main cast: Agnes Kittelson, Henrik Rafaelson, Maibritt Saerens, Joachim Rafaelson