En ganske snill mann (2010)
Take a fairly clever screenplay belonging to the renowned recent Danish crime tradition, combine it with arch-Norwegian forlorn and outdated film characters (who luckily cannot be claimed to be representative for the Norwegian people), and add a touch of Kaurismäkish, sardonic outlook on life, and you have the basic setup for Hans Petter Moland's latest film, En ganske snill mann. The good news is that despite the fact that these characters and situations are suspiciously familiar in their oddity, the three above-mentioned factors ensures a fine amount of good, untainted laughs. Some hilarious sex scenes between the title character and his landlady stand out in particular. The bad news is that, as with most films from the "cold-and-isolated" tradition, the film maintains a distance to its characters which prevents us from complete affinity with them.
One who tries his best to get close to us is Stellan Skarsgård, who gives a stripping, soulful performance in this, his third collaboration with Moland (after Kjærlighetens kjøtere and Aberdeen). As it turns out, however, his is really the only multi-dimensional character, and the plot begins treading a bit too familiar waters a bit too soon, making the film appear a little worn-down (albeit not as worn-down as Oslo is presented). While it is more than funny enough, my main objection to En ganske snill mann is that it doesn't feel like it's in touch with reality – it's a story from a filmatic universe rather than the real world. And that's a pity, because there are a couple of potentially very strong scenes towards the end, notably those involving Skarsgård with Henrik Mestad and Julia Bache-Wiig respectively. Narratively and technically, Moland's direction is tight and tidy, enabling En ganske snill mann to entertain for the course of its running time. Unfortunately, it's too slight to make a real impression or stick with you.