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Many films have been made about witchcraft, but few about the recent rise in bushcraft. By that I mean folks – typically straight white men – who live with their families in a house with modern technology, and who occasionally venture out into the wilderness to setup a tent and play pretend. You can find their hours long videos on YouTube. The allure of nature and solitude from a nagging wife is enough to send some men into the woods for weeks, which is where we find our protagonist Martin (Rasmus Bjerg). Thomas Daneskov’s second feature is a Norwegian Fargo that, luckily, lives up to and separates itself from its predecessors. Co-written with Morten Pape, the dark comedy is both hilarious and touching, with frequent flourishes that enliven the film and keep the viewer on their toes.
Daneskov has a clever way of revealing information, lifting the veneer of different aspects of the story in cinematic ways. Martin’s character is introduced hunting goat unsuccessfully, settling for frog, puking it up the next morning, and then robbing a gas station for some real food. On the other side of the mountain, a car crash leaves Musa (Zaki Youssef) and his two cronies injured, and he scampers away with a duffle bag full of cash. Martin finds Musa asleep on a rock, and helps stitch up his injured leg. The Police Chief, Oyvind (Bjorn Sundquist), is joined by his two lieutenants, one who complains about needing a better work-life balance. Oyvind’s demeanor is reminiscent of Frances McDormand’s Marge, but the plot has enough surprises and novel thoughts on masculinity that separate it from the Fargo formula.
One fun scene involves a couple in a car arguing about how little they have sex. The woman tells her husband he’s an egotist, and he should be more altruistic. So to prove her wrong, he stops to pick up hitchhikers, who happen to be Musa’s violent goons covered in blood. Later Martin is duped by an “authentic Viking experience’,” where a potential romance with a woman who offers him meat is extinguished when she asks him for his credit card. Martin’s wife and children come looking for him, but in the process end up losing another member of their family.
It would be easy to overlook a mistake here or there, as the film is superbly shot, with its framing, camera angles and the natural beauty of the landscapes. But it’s hard to find any flaws in this majestic mystery thriller buddy film. Even the choices of American folk music seem spot on. The ensemble of actors is terrific, especially Bjerg and Sundquist, who have a few scenes together that extol a great deal of wisdom in the midst of silliness. Oyvind’s matter of fact dialogue is a highlight. “We’re all just playing dress up,” he quotes to Martin, and you realize that authenticity is a matter of perspective.
– Matthew Delman (@ItsTheRealDel)