90 minutter (2012)
This stern take on contemporary urban life and the dangers of backlashes in modern sex roles is comprised of three separate stories told alternately. They are all condensed in time, space and action, and they are all extremely bleak and unrelenting representations of what writer/director Eva Sørhaug claims is happening behind closed doors in urban Norway (and presumably other western countries). They are like three different novelettes, united by a common theme: men who are not able to handle their own waning manhood, and the catastrophic results of this.
Not all three segments work equally well, however. And in order to critique this film, their function must be assessed both separately and as a whole. The first story is about a man who've run his business and himself into bankruptcy, and cannot bear to face the consequences for himself or his wife. This is perhaps the best and most resonant piece, elevated by Bjørn Floberg's dignified performance and Sørhaug's aptly distanced observations. The second concerns a typical modern split family, where dad visits his children and ex-wife in his old house, and becomes increasingly indignant by their happiness in elucidation of his own unhappiness. Although this segment is explosive and full of recognisable elements, actors Mads Ousdal and Pia Tjelta (real-life partners) cannot quite communicate this on to us, and it becomes a story of somewhat unfulfilled potential. The final story is about a wife-beater who has locked his wife and newborn child in their apartment. This is both the film's most discussed and least effective segment. My main concern is that I'm not convinced by the Aksel Hennie character's modus operandi. The fact that I have witnessed a similar type of abuse first-hand growing up may not have made me an expert on this particular subject, but what I've seen and experienced makes Trond come off as too much of a concoction; he's too much action and too little thought. What Sørhaug and Hennie is able to convey is the man's aggression and the wife's desperation, but they offer little insight into the mindset of neither - and especially not the ambivalence which must fill Hennie's character. Alas, Sørhaug's writing here is lacking, and Hennie is completely out of his depth.
As a result of this, 90 minutter becomes an ordeal - both because of the gruelling nature of its stories and because Sørhaug writes checks she's not quite able to cash. And even if you don't agree with me about the ineffectiveness of the aforementioned third segment, the big question remains: What exactly does she want to say? Does she offer any insight into why these men act the way they do? Or, more importantly, does she give any observations why these people end up doing what they do? I wasn't able to deduct any relevant social criticism (apart from that concerning the modern male sex role), and I wasn't able to find any redemption either. It's like Sørhaug simply wants to show us that she's discovered mankind's darkest secrets, and then brags about her discovery. She's like an older teenager telling younger teenagers ghost-stories around the camp fire.
Some films are difficult to watch because they appear like a mirror before you, forcing you to do some soul-searching along the way, but with 90 minutter, the unpleasantness comes from having to watch things you would rather think didn't exist. In this respect, the film is in the vein of the hard-hitting French film Irréversible from 2002, only what Sørhaug asks us to watch is told so flatly and unrelentingly that it borders on misanthropic. The one and only redress we're offered is in the form of downright revenge. And although that may be necessary in some extreme situations in life (like the one Karianne finds herself in) it is not something I'll applaud artworks for fronting.