Up in the very north of the world are the countries of Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Finland and Iceland. These lands are collectively known as Scandinavia and are known for their prosperous people, picturesque locations and their cold harsh weather. Their films though are anything but cold. European cinema has long been known to have the elegance and civility that is missing in a lot of Western media. Scandinavia is no different. Scandinavian films are known for their power, emotion and technical brilliance. With many signature directing and art styles coming from the region.
The Scandinavian Film Festival has made its way to Adelaide and with it comes a selection of the best films to come from the Scandinavian region in the past couple years. Showcased this year are a number of far northern directors and actors that have come to be greatly respected around the world alongside newcomers who show promise and passion in their early work. The selection this year has the depth of storytelling that is to be expected from the land. The films strike on a number of different themes and genres from dark comedies to historical dramas, romances and slice of life pieces. The festival is bound to have something that you'll enjoy and will expand your mind to the culture and experiences of the Scandinavian area.
To begin this journey through North European film I will be reviewing the picture The Other Side of Hope. This film was shown at a media screening on the 5th of July. This movie is also going to be screening on the festival's opening night on the 19th of July and 2 more times on the 22nd and 29th of July.
The Other Side of Hope is a dark comedy by Aki Kaurismaki. This director is renowned for his deadpan, matter of fact style. When watching his films it's easy to pick up his distinct signature and The Other Side of Hope is no exception. Despite dealing with the somewhat more serious theme of asylum seekers, Kaurismaki's straight, no-nonsense style both blends with the melancholy of asylum seeking and contrasts with it.
The Other Side of Hope starts us with two different stories happening within Finland. One is of a tired, old retail owner, Wikstrom, who divorces his wife and sells his business to follow his dream of starting up a restaurant. The other side of the story is of a Syrian refugee, Khalad, who has arrived to Finland on boat and checked himself into the police to begin the long process of being accepted as an immigrant in Finland. The paths of these two eventually converge Wikstrom taking the refugee into his care, helping him with his life in Finland.
The Other Side of Hope is a very precise piece of filmmaking. Kaurismaki's deadpan style hits a very smooth steady beat. The jokes dialogue and actor's movements have a very mechanical timing to it. This rhythm continues throughout the movie flowing from Wikstrom's scenes into Khaled's. The humour normally picks up in Wikstrom's scenes and I think this is perfectly fine. Each scene contrasts well with the other, from the light-hearted yet solemn and sombre Wikstrom to the struggles faced daily by Khaled it makes sense that the tone would change from scene to scene. Yet the overall mood doesn't. A product of Kaurismaki's style is the timing of dialogue and style of shooting doesn't change. This is where the movie is great, taking these two very different scenarios, one very normal and every day and the other quite topical and relevant. Showing the differences in mood and tone yet blending them together in their dialogue and pacing. It's has a feeling of closeness between two very different stories between two very different people.
It's hard to comment on the acting of this movie. I think everyone hits their beat quite well. The beat being the stilted and deliberate pace of the back and forth dialogue. Everything seems quite forced and robotic and the characters show emotion for maybe 5% of the film but I think that's exactly the style of the film. This film is a lot more about the director and how he can tell a story and get the message he wants across to the audience. As far as that is concerned, I think he does that incredibly soundly. The shots are incredibly focused, the use of sound is well done and everything else is stripped back so you can only really ponder on the theme and message as you view the character's struggles.
This is a definite recommendation for anyone who wants to see something distinctive and different in the cinematic world. One that will for sure leave an impression on its viewers.
The Other Side of Hope is only one of many movies being shown at this year's Scandinavian Film Festival. The Other Side of Hope will be opening the festival on the 19th of July. However, there are many more films to be shown this year that I believe will be just as suburb and enjoyable. If you are looking for historical drama you can see the Academy Award selection The King's Choice or 1864. Warm your heart with One-Two-Three Go! or Little Wing or have a laugh with Small Town Killers or Swinger. The palette is full at this year's festival with a slice of Scandinavia for everyone's tastes.
The Scandinavian Film Festival starts on July 19th with numerous film screenings going until the 30th of July at the Palace Nova cinema just off of Rundle Street. You can find screening times and tickets at scandinavianfilmfestival.com