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November 09, 2010

Starz Denver Film Festival 2010 - A Somewhat Gentle Man


En ganske snill mann
Hans Petter Moland - 2010
Strand Releasing

I'm telling you right now that not only do I recommend this movie, but I additionally recommend that you watch the final credit scroll. Not that there's anything to look at, but the soundtrack has this deliciously daffy riff based on Tchaikovksy's "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy" that gets more abstract and jazzier as it progresses. The film has the kind of soundtrack that someone might think belonged to a Coen Brothers film beginning with Patsy Cline's "I Go to Pieces", a snippet of "Angel of the Morning", and most hilariously in the story of a former convict, Bobby Fuller Four's "I Fought the Law (and the Law Won". The only Norwegian music comes from a band, Jupiter with songs of unhappy love - sample lyrics, "You use to be thin as a willow/Now you are plump as a pillow".

Not that A Somewhat Gentle Man is entirely a comedy, but it is full of some very funny moments. What seems to interest Hans Petter Moland is creating films about people in absurd situations or in alien environments. When I first heard Patsy Cline on the soundtrack, it not only reminded me that Moland has worked quite well with English language films, Aberdeen and The Beautiful Country, but from the get go, this film could just as easily have been made in English, and with the same star, Moland's frequent collaborator, Stellan Skarsgard.

Released from prison for shooting the his wife's lover, Ulrik finds going straight a challenge. The small-time gangster he works for, Jensen, wants Ulrik to kill the man who identified Ulrik to the police. Jensen sets Ulrik up with a small apartment and a job as a mechanic, with Ulrik discovering gradually, and to his increasing discomfort, how the people in his small circle of acquaintances are related to each other. Ulrik also tries to reconcile with his now grown son.

Some of the humor comes in the form of some of the other characters - Ulrik's car mechanic boss who spouts out long winded homilies in a rapid monotone, and his landlady, a woman past a certain age, who shows up initially to deliver a cooked dinner for Ulrik, and in the least subtle or seductive manner pulls down her panties and lets Ulrik know what's expected of him. There's also a scene involving a tough guy, who is also a dwarf, with the normal sized men looking foolish. Moland even has, not truly Polish jokes, but some humorous references to Poland.

I hesitate to use the word quirky here because it's something of cliche, and because too many filmmakers create characters that are more annoying than endearing. The difference is that Moland seems to actually enjoy all of his characters in spite of their foibles or weaknesses. What happens in several of Moland's films is that the characters are forced by circumstances to discover aspects about each other that changes the relationship for the better. There have only been a couple of English language interviews with Moland, both several years old. A more recent interview has Moland neatly summing up the subject of A Somewhat Gentle Man by stating, "It’s pretty hard being a human being surrounded by nasty shits!".

(Viewed as DVD screener)

Posted by peter at November 9, 2010 11:24 AM