You Are Here, The Bothersome Man, Prague, and We Shall Overcome

You Are Here is a Rashômon-style film with various people relating their memories of the same night and often the same events, so the viewer eventually pieces together a fairly complete picture. Along the way you have to reevaluate what you thought you understood or assumed.

The characters are almost all in their early 20’s. Ryan is a DJ in a club that serves as the central venue of the story. He is in love with Cassie, a struggling actress. But as the movie opens, he wakes up in bed with Apple, Cassie’s friend, not sure exactly how he ended up there, although he does remember a lot of pretty messed-up shit. Mick is the cool guy with the British accent and a Zen philosophy who Ryan calls from Apple’s bathroom to try to figure things out. And there are at least three more fairly prominent characters.

My appraisal of the film varied quite a bit as it progressed. The characters are not people I would normally interact with, and are not really people I would want to hang out with, but they are mostly at least interesting. And they are well portrayed, seeming three (or at least two) dimensional and fairly real. The plot took unexpected turns, and the visual style was often interesting. The music wasn’t entirely my cup of tea, but didn’t suck either. So on the whole I was glad I saw this film.

The film seemed not to be 100% finished, by the way. At the end it said “End Titles,” and that was it. So maybe it will be a little different if you get a chance to see it.

The Bothersome Man opens with Andreas standing on a train platform. Near him a couple is kissing passionately, sort of. They look distracted and they don’t really seem present. It was funny and creepy at the same time.

Then flash back. A man at a rundown gas station in the middle of f***-ing nowhere puts up a welcome banner. A bus arrives carrying only one man: Andreas. He’s taken by car into town, and he’s given an apartment and a job. But things are weird. He sees a man impaled on a metal spike fence, dead, but people just acknowledge it without really reacting.

I won’t go further to avoid spoiling anything about this Norwegian film that defies easy categorization. It reminded me of Dark City (what I can remember of it), but with some of “The Prisoner” and a little Groundhog Day thrown in. I’m not a fan of horror or violence, and was happy that that was not pervasive, but what was there was still quite disturbing and made me look away from the screen. Luckily the film was intriguing and interesting enough to make me still glad I saw it.

In Prague, Christoffer’s father has died, so he and his wife Maja go from their home in Denmark to Prague to get the body. Christoffer is unemotional, which he attributes to the fact that his father left home when Christoffer was 12, but Maja keeps pushing him to open up.

It’s hard to talk about the movie without giving away too much, but suffice it to say that this lives up to the stereotype of Danish dramas: difficult emotions, confrontation, and some sexual situations.

There are a few things that lighten the mood. The most prevalent one is the language barrier, since no Czechs speak Danish. When Christoffer uses English as an intermediate language, he is liable to get a beer when he orders coffee, for example.

I should also mention that SpastiCam™ is pretty pervasive throughout. Sometimes it’s big movements, and sometimes it’s just small shakiness, but the camera is rarely still or smooth.

The performances, especially by Mads Mikkelsen, are excellent, and the story is engaging even though it’s depressing. So I was glad to have seen it.

We Shall Overcome is a Danish movie based on actual events. It is set in a small rural town in 1969. The main character is Frits, a middle school-aged boy whose family runs a dairy farm. At the start of the film his father Peder is taken away to an institution, not quite able to cope with life. Frits’ mother Stine buys a used black and white television to keep the family occupied, and Frits is enthralled with the news of the civil rights movement and Vietnam demonstrations.

The school year starts, and Frits is out of step with his classmates. His hair is long, at least when compared to other boys, and he doesn’t want to say what he did during the summer since his father’s situation is not public knowledge. We learn that the school is run with an iron fist by headmaster Lindum-Svendsen, who was just recognized for 25 years in his position. He feels that there is no problem that can’t be solved by a beating or the threat of one. And anything that doesn’t match his old-fashioned vision of how school should be is a problem.

The other key characters are Freddie Svale, a hippie music teacher who has just arrived to teach on a trial basis, and Iben, a pretty girl in Frits’ class.

I won’t go into more detail because I didn’t know much going into this film except that it was Danish and had some connection to Martin Luther King. I loved it. It’s a little manipulative, but much better and original than a film like The Chorus. It’s my favorite film of the festival (leaving The General out of competition).

I’ll give 3.5 stars out of 4 stars to We Shall Overcome, and 3 stars out of 4 stars to the other three films.

Seen 3/10/2007 at Cinequest.

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