Dir: Tomas Gislason. Denmark. 2001. 110 mins.
One of the most striking and unusual films in San Sebastian's Zabaltegi New Directors section, POV: Point Of View is a visually brilliant, thematically skimpy homage to the classic American road movie that will provoke love-or-loathe reactions. Its most likely appeal is to adventurous, hipper younger audiences (it was, along with Elling, the highest scoring film with the San Sebastian youth jury) and the Californian setting and predominantly English-language dialogue may ease its passage into North American markets (although prospects there will be impeded in the short term by a subplot involving a terrorist bomb).
After an unsettling prologue introducing Kamilla (Trine Dyrholm), a frightened Danish tourist being questioned by Seattle police about a homicide, the film begins crackingly on a note of high comedy with a flashback to the intended nuptials of Kamilla and Henrik (Ulrich Thomsen), in a tacky Las Vegas wedding chapel.
The ceremony gets off to a bad start when she arrives in full bridal regalia while he shows up in scruffy jeans. Jilting him at the altar, Kamilla hops on the back of a nearby motorbike which turns out to belong to moody loner Rock (Gareth Williams). He reluctantly gives her a ride to Los Angeles, where she takes up with a psychopathic type disguised as a clown and becomes implicated in a convenience store robbery.
Rescued by Rock, she hits the road with him again, travelling up through Northern California, via Big Sur and San Francisco before ending up in Seattle. En route, Kamilla gleans fragments of information about the mysterious biker after visits to his aunt and a friend of his dead father's, who had fought in Vietnam. Rock himself turns out to be an anarchist active in an urban guerrilla movement. However the film remains maddeningly vague about either his motives or the detail of this organisation.
The overall tone of the piece is ambiguous: Kamilla and Rock are fascinated by Keraouac and Williams Burroughs, extracts from whose work pepper the film in voice-over. Point Of View both seems gently to mock their romantic obsession with these writers and, at the same time to be itself a poetic love letter to the Beat Generation. The ironic comedy ebbs away after the opening scenes, and the result is, perhaps, a film which takes itself a little too seriously.
Writer-editor-director Tomas Gislason previously worked as an editor for Bille August and Lars Von Trier and has a background in documentaries; this, his first feature, is heavily influenced by the Dogme style without strictly adhering to all its rules. Shot chronologically over a three-month period, it employs a mix of professional actors and individuals who they met on the road and uses entirely improvised dialogue based on an outline script.
The movie's trump card is the stunning photography and intricate editing, pieced together by Gislason and his team from over 300 hours of footage. Using extreme camera angles, fish-eye lenses and heavily processed images, it's a gorgeous evocation of the American independent and underground cinema of the 1960s, from Stan Brakhage and Jonas Mekas to Easy Rider.
Prod co: Bech Films
UK dist: Angel
Int'l Sales: Trust Film
Exec prods: Poul Erik Lindeborg, Mogens Glad
Prods: Peter Bech, Stine Boe Jensen
Scr: Gislason, Lars Kjedgaard
Cinematography: Gislason, Mads Thomsen
Ed: Gislason, Anders Refn, Jacob Thuesen
Main cast: Trine Dyrholm, Gareth Williams, Ulrich Thomsen