Saturday, 9 July 2016

Five Great Norwegian Films

Great films can be found just about anywhere. It doesn't really matter what your preferred style, or genre, is either - as long as a country actually has the industry, and support, necessary to actually make film-making possible, then it's almost a guarantee that you will be able to find some film's there that are worth your time.

Like the films listed below, for example - five great Norwegian films that are each well worth your time if you consider yourself to be a lover of film.

Troll Hunter


On paper, the intent of the 'found footage' style of film has always been fairly clear to me. They're obviously meant to achieve a greater sense of immersion, by bringing the audience more directly into the action - and, they're also meant to give a greater sense of 'realism', by making the camera-person into a character.

I get that. I really do.

In practise, though, these sorts of films often just don't do anything for me. It just strikes as a tired gimmick, really. Worst still, though, it's a style that seems to allow for sloppy and lazy film-making techniques that would never be allowed in a 'proper' film (or, maybe, I'm wrong and 'found footage' films actually take a lot of work - the fact is, though, that they often look sloppy and lazy).

I'm not saying that they're all necessarily going to be bad films - just that they have a lot of extra work to do. Troll Hunter, for example, might very well be the only 'found footage' film I've ever seen that I'm actually willing to recommend to others.

A team of student film-makers, just looking to capture footage of poachers rumoured to be active in the Norwegian wilderness, get quite a bit more than that when they come across Hans. Hans, it turns out, is a government-employed troll hunter who has grown increasingly fed up with his low-paying job. So, not only is Hans willing to reveal that trolls do, in fact, exist - he's also perfectly happy to let them tag along and record footage of him in action. Of course, with reports of trolls appearing in much greater number then ever before, it seems as though the student film-makers might have picked the worst possible time to get themselves involved.

Troll Hunter is an entertaining film in spite of its reliance on the 'found footage' style - not because of it. But, it is still an entertaining film. And, its use of the folklore of Norway as its basis makes it particularly interesting to anyone (like me) who happens to be interested in that sort of thing.

Cold Prey


Cold Prey is a film which doesn't really try to stray too far from the standard conventions of the 'slasher' film. The cast of potential victims, conveniently trapped in an isolated cabin after a snow-boarding trip goes badly, are all suitably young and pretty. The killer is suitably intimidating. And, most importantly, the various death scenes are suitably violent and bloody. All of the pieces are there for Cold Prey to offer up the same brand of morbid entertainment offered by all of the 'slasher' films of the past.

What makes Cold Prey particularly entertaining is what it actually does with these fairly standard conventions. The film's cast might seem fairly typical, but they are each given enough screen-time to firmly establish them as 3-dimensional figures, rather than bland caricatures. And, they also never act in a way that seems conspicuously stupid once the action starts. Also, the killer's first victim is actually a virgin, who we see deliberately turn down her boyfriend's attempts to get her into bed moments before she is killed (it really says something about exactly how conventional these sorts of films tend to be when that simple, deliberate, subversion stood out to me).

Put all of that together, and you get what is possibly one of the only films of this type where you might not be able to guess who is going to survive to the end. That fact, alone, would have to make Cold Prey more interesting than many other 'slasher' films.

Jackpot


A violent shoot-out in a Swedish strip-club leaves only a single survivor, Oscar Svendson - an innocuous seeming man who seems to have only survived by hiding under the body of a dead stripper. Taken into police custody, Oscar gradually reveals the series of bizarre events which lead to this point. A series of events which, we are told, began when Oscar and a few co-workers won a large sum of money - money which, of course, needed to be divided between them.

Jackpot is a film which revels in its violent absurdity - using it as the basis for some faintly disturbing, and disturbingly funny, moments of great black comedy. It's the sort of film that's filled with unpleasant people doing unpleasant things to each other - which, really, is exactly what it needs to be. After all, if we were actually given time to grow attached to any of these characters, we might feel bad about laughing at what happens to them.

It's not the sort of film that's going to appeal to everyone, sure - but, really, you should already know if it's the sort that might appeal to you.

Thale


Another film that draws its inspiration from the folklore and mythology of Norway, this time focusing on the mysterious and seductive creature known as the Hulder.

Two life-long friends, employed by a cleaning service that specialises in cleaning up crime-scenes, are called out to a secluded cabin to clean up the remains of a particularly violent crime. While there, though, the find their way to a hidden entrance to a carefully concealed basement - where, to their surprise, they find a young woman who seems to have been kept locked away. The young woman is clearly not normal, though - she is both seemingly incapable of speech, and unnaturally strong. But, she seems harmless, enough. As the two men settle in to wait for the authorities to arrive, though, we begin to get hints that there is something else also lurking about this secluded cabin.

The main issue you might have with this film would be with whether or not you came in expecting to see the tense horror film it seems determined to promote itself as. Thale simply isn't a horror film, despite being labelled as one. It's a film which is clearly much more interested in the central mystery of this strange woman, than it is in actually trying to scare the audience - and, would probably be better off classified as a dark fantasy of some sort. For me, that makes it a much more interesting film than it otherwise might have been - though, of course, your own mileage may vary.

Headhunters


By day, Roger Brown is a mild-mannered corporate headhunter well known for his ability to pick the right person for the right job. By night, though, Roger free-lances as an art thief - using information carefully gleaned from interviews with his wealthy clients to pick out appropriate targets. He finds himself caught up in a dangerous game of cat and mouse, though, when he begins to suspect that his latest target is having an affair with his wife - and, worse, that the two might be working together to have him killed.

With his opponent revealed to be a highly trained and very dangerous ex-soldier, it seems as though it is going to take all of Roger's cunning and resourcefulness to survive long enough to find some way to turn the tables on his dangerous foe. And, through it all, there is still the question of why he is even being targeted, in the first place.

Headhunters is a brutally violent, and often very tense, film - but, it's also a very entertaining one.


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