Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Martin Lund's THE ALMOST MAN: this original from Norway offers a very "late" coming-of-age

"Can you dance without irony?" asks Mia to her boyfriend, Henrik, as he dances "in quotes," and this strange but interesting question resonates for the remainder of the THE ALMOST MAN, the new and weirdly captivating Norwegian movie written and directed by Martin Lund. As this tale of a very overgrown 35-year-old child/man proceeds, we slowly begin to wonder if Henrik can do anything without irony -- without having to comment and/or act facetiously about, well, nearly everything he encounters. Henrik (clearly not named after Ibsen) is a plum role played to creepy perfection by an actor named Henrik Rafaelsen, who took the Best Actor prize at the 2012 Karlovy Vary Film Fest (the movie itself won Best Film).

Filmmaker Lund, shown at right, packs a punch (a number of them, actually) and a lot of information and characters into his 75-minute movie, which feels neither rushed nor too brief, as it details the relationship between Tone (a lovely performance from Janne Heltberg Haarseth, below) and her "almost" man. Initially, Henrik seems pretty charming and funny, yet the succeeding scenes belie both his charm and the fun, as Henrik -- whether due to abject fear at the prospect of becoming a parent when he himself is still a child or something even deeper -- appears to be disintegrating before our (and his) very eyes.

The movie opens with Henrik in the bathtub. His body, which in time we see all of, is oddly without definition. He's neither over- nor under-weight, but almost completely undefined. Rather like his character.

We see this seemingly lovey-dovey pair (above) first at their new home, and later in the supermarket and partying with friends. We view Henrik at work, with his bad-boy buddies (below), and with his overprotective mom. Scene by scene, the man appears to be losing it until he very nearly crosses a boundary he can't uncross.

Through it all, actor Rafaelsen does a yeoman job of putting us off yet holding us fast so that we hope he'll somehow manage the tightrope on which he's placed himself. This may be an extreme case of the Peter Pan syndrome, but it's a memorable one.

The writer/director has chosen his scenes and events wisely for maximum effect, for resonance and for guiding us from initial laughter into something not so funny at all.

Will our boy make it to manhood, even at this late date? Opinions may differ about the outcome here, but I think most audiences will agree that Mr. Lund has given us an unusual, provocative little film.

The Almost Man -- from Big World Pictures -- has its U.S. theatrical premiere this Friday, August 1, here in New York City at the Village East Cinema. Elsewhere? To learn of any additional screenings, click on this link, then click on Viewing (under the Donation link at the top) and scroll down ..... 

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