Pure Hearts, Pingpong, and Maria’s Men

In Pure Hearts, Kriss lives in an institution. He and his best friend Willy watch an old B&W film called Pure Hearts every day, often several times. Kriss can’t talk about anything but the film and its female star, named Linda. Unfortunately the tape he has of the movie is missing the ending, so he isn’t 100% sure how it ends. We also learn that Kriss gave up on reading books after reading the story of Noah’s ark. It seems that Kriss disagrees with Noah, thinking that he should have left the “bad” animals to drown.

Without giving too much away, Kriss gets into trouble when he hurts another patient, and he is no longer allowed to watch his movie. Things go downhill from there.

This film reminded me a bit of Elling, which I love, though it’s darker as you might expect, since this film is Danish and Elling is Norwegian.

At the start of the German film Pingpong, Paul arrives unannounced at the house of Anna, Stephan, their son Robert, and dog Schumann, and says that he wants to stay for an indefinite period of time. Apparently Stephan told Paul that he could come any time if things got too hard at home. Not much later we learn that Paul and Robert are old friends, and that Paul’s father recently died.

The film is hard to descibe, but everyone has challenges in their lives, and we see those challenges all play out in various combinations.

The film is somewhat challenging, as you might guess from what I’ve said, and I liked it quite a bit through most of the running time. Unfortunately, the final act is marred by a character doing something that seemed incompatible with the character I thought I had come to know, mostly ruining all that came before for me.

Maria’s Men is a romantic comedy, though that’s not so obvious from the opening scene. It’s set in a hospital emergency room, where an old man has been brought in after jumping from a third floor window. We also see a closeup of someone being stitched up (or we see it until we look away, in my case). But the music is oddly cheerful. Hmmm. I’m not sure if this is going to work.

We also meet Maria, an emergency room doctor all her coworkers seem to like. We learn that she is a 40-ish divorced mother of three, and that she hasn’t dated in a while and isn’t sure if she wants to or has the time. But then her coworkers try to set her up with a very successful doctor who just joined the hospital staff, and another man also expresses interest.

Maria is played by Ingjerd Egeberg, who I didn’t realize was also in two of my favorite Norwegian films from past Cinequest festivals, Hold My Heart and Detector. On paper she is not a great Hollywood-style beauty, but somehow she manages to pull off the magnetism needed to make you believe that men would be drawn to her. It’s an excellent performance. And the film really worked for me too.

I’ll give Pure Hearts 3 stars, Pingpong 2.5 stars, and Maria’s Men 3.5 stars, all out of 4 stars.

Seen 3/8/2007 at Cinequest.

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