Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Religious fundamentalism meets competitive dance in Jorunn Myklebust Syversen's DISCO

The new Norwegian movie DISCO opens with a competition in, yes, freestyle disco dancing before moving on to family problems and finally to another kind of competition -- between rival "Jesus Saves" cults. 

Almost everyone we see here is young, attractive, white, bourgeois, and homogeneous-as-hell, so one can easily understand why world-class asshole, soon-to-be ex-President and -- we hope -- felon Donald Trump is so attracted to the country of Norway. 

Early on, filmmaker Jorunn Myklebust Syversen (the writer/director is shown at right) offers us one of those religious zealots intoning "This is real love!" But no: a cult's a cult, for all that.

The heroine here is a late-teen named Mirjam who is tops in competitive disco freestyle dancing but is having problems at home, as are her mom and stepdad (the latter of whom is a church pastor). There is heavy suggestion of Mirjam's earlier abuse by her father, and clearly something is off in regards to religion and its fit into her life. 

But Mirjam (prettily played by Josefine Frida Pettersen, above and below, center) proves not particularly expressive, word-wise, and so we never learn many specifics. What we do learn comes mostly from one of those conveniently overheard conversations so popular with filmmakers. 

Yes, disco and the word of god make strange bedfellows, leading to grief, guilt and mental breakdown. Unfortunately the road it takes to arrive there is awfully long and tedious, filled with so much tiresome religious instruction that Disco often feels more like than attending religious school than narrative entertainment.

One thing is for sure: Mirjam has some of the ugliest dance costumes yet seen on film. And while fundamentalist hypocrisy gets yet another working over, this is handled in such a weak and been-there-done-that manner that any major effect is mostly lost. It's always fun to see the words of the Bible used to point up the hypocrisy of those who are mouthing them, yet this, too, offers little that's new. Watching our heroine brainwashed by one stupid sect and then by another, even more abusive, is ugly, all right, but not, finally, particularly beneficial.

For those looking desperately for religious salvation, this movie may fill the bill. For the rest of us, it'll either make you somewhat angry or bore you to within an inch of your sanity. From 1091 Pictures, in Norwegian with English subtitles and running 95 minutes, Disco hits online streaming today, Tuesday, December 1 -- for purchase and/or rental (the latter either now or very soon). Click here for more information.

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