I made my wife watch this.

I identified her online inside of 20 minutes. She’s real. As these things go. btw at Netflix you can get an English translation. If you don’t know Norwegian.

Not like it’s some kind of spouse abuse. We’ve been watching Scandinavian movies and TV series for quite a while now. We like the intellect behind the writing we see, but we’re also baffled by the people being depicted. There’s a lassitude, a dense unwillingness to engage with critical situations and dangerous people that we just don’t recognize. Don’t mean to be abstract. The Scandinavians tend to just sit there when the shit is hitting the fan. Or they go slow in coming to the rescue when rescue is urgently, desperately needed. Even their heroes are always late, plodding, and diffident in the face of impending catastrophe.

Except for Annika Bengzton (pardon the awful French dubbing in this clip), whose show turned us on to all the other Scandinavians. My wife liked The Eagle, which I couldn’t watch because it was so dense and slow and complicated. But we both liked Lilyhammer, an American take on the difference between passive stupidity and action oriented stupidity (the former Norwegian, the latter American). And we soldiered on through Wallander (not the BBC version) together, perhaps for different reasons. She liked the stories. I liked the fact that he hated everyone without ever showing it openly. The last Viking. Gone a’glimmering. I guess it’s fair to say we endured the native language version of the Dragon Tattoo trilogy because we had grown used to Scandinavian inability to recognize emergency and had learned to wait for what they peculiarly conceive of as justice. Which might or might not just happen.

Then I found this one, a maybe horror movie though not really. It put the Scandinavian detachment front and center, to such an extreme that one of the protagonists says barely a hundred words in the whole picture.

There’s a perfect scene which exemplifies everything we grate our teeth about in Scandinavian films. The silent guy, with excellent contextual rationale, tells his partner, “Don’t touch ANYTHING.” Whereupon he leaves the room and his partner immediately starts fiddling with the knobs of a radio set, repeatedly, obsessively, irrationally. There is never any penalty for this kind of disconnect in a Scandinavian movie. Apparently, no one ever expects anyone to pay attention to anything he says. When the bad thing happens there is never an “I told you so” moment. There is only silence.

Inert silence is the Scandinavian default. They’re done in by the modern condition, too many generations of Ingemar Bergman movies and plays by Ibsen and Strindberg.

Except that there’s something underneath all that, a damaged, maybe even amputated, vitality.

Indeed, amputation is a big part of The movie Thale. But for once we’re not subjugated by the Nordic welfare state, even though it rears its head in the most frightening possible way in the climax of the film. Instead, we are returned to the mythic past of a Norway that just barely exists anymore. Whence the Vikings? Whence the Norse passion? Here. On a shoestring budget. The detached are reattached. The past consumes the present. The old ways win.


Yeah. She liked it too.

  1. Tim’s avatar

    OK I either just made the same comment twice or the website didn’t take it.


    1. Instapunk’s avatar

      Try try again.


    2. Instapunk’s avatar

      Tim’s having trouble getting his comment to register. Haven’t a clue why. But I’m going to try putting it up for him. Here goes.


      I may have to start watching all of this Scandinavian stuff. For a while I didn’t understand why it had captured your attention but I think I get it now. There is a ton of pure shit out there that simply isn’t worth watching.

      Regarding the superhero movies: I have enjoyed them since Hollywood has (as you well know), since 9/11, completely refused to make any action, espionage, thriller, or drama where there are realistic enemies. Like, oh, um, say…mooslims? The few times jihadists do pop up as bad guys, it is made explicitly clear their hatred of America is actually kind of justified and the only reason they are able to attack us at all is because shadowy US defense contractors or George Bush are enabling it so they can make money off of war.

      Case in point: we got around to watching Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit last night. The plot was so stupid and willfully blind I had to laugh. A Russian mobster/banker or something holds a grudge against the US for shrapnel from a grenade (supplied by the US to the hajis) still lodged in his back from when he fought in Afghanistan for the Soviets back in the ‘80s. So he’s orchestrated a plot involving a terror attack & dumping stocks that is so complex only 25 year old Jack Ryan can understand it. Literally. At one point Kevin Costner, his alleged boss, waves and his hand and essentially says “Whatever, I don’t get it. Look, everybody just do whatever Jack says. This is all very confusing.”

      The goal of this attack is to strengthen the Russian economy while ruining America’s. The terror attack involves a Russian suicide bomber (so many of those around, right?) trying to blow up Wall Street. That guy must be REALLY devoted to the motherland’s economy, no? Oh and as an extra dash of head-in-the-sandism, this guy and his family were Russian sleeper agents hiding in the Russian Orthodox community of Dearborn, Michigan. Which is, uh, definitely the perfect choice of where to hide in plain sight. Russian Orthodox are everywhere. Certainly no other plausible demographic in Dearborn, MI one could think of that might make more sense in this context. Nope. Nuh-uh.

      Anyway, this is supposed to be a “serious” movie. As in, depicting some event which is at least in some realm of plausibility. Of course in the real world, why would Russia need to suicide-bomb Wall Street when we’re doing a perfectly good enough job putting ourselves into the second great depression, thank you very much. Or that other stupid one where North Korea invades. If you live in Seoul the threat of invasion may keep you up at night, but over here I’m far more worried about a *insert federal alphabet agency here* swat team busting down my door b/c of some “seditious” comments I made on the internet.

      The superhero movies at least sell themselves as pure fantasy. Alien Norse gods? Genetically engineered raccoon on a spaceship? Suits of armor with missiles? Talking tree guy? Sure, sign me up. Even so, I think the DC films peaked with the Christopher Nolan Batman, and the Marvel films are probably going to peak next year. After that it will be full-on PC compliance time: female Thor, black Captain America, black Human Torch, and the inevitable gay character(s) who comes out of closet after being straight for the past 60 years (w/30-minute scenes of him making out with his boyfriend, natch).

      This is my long-winded way of saying it’s getting harder and harder to find any good entertainment since, as we’ve discussed, even sports are dying quickly. So thank you for all your continued recommendations. You have clued me in to some real gems over the years I otherwise would have missed.

      PS – Not sure if you & the missus approve, but I enjoyed the recent Fargo TV series. Your Scandinavian description reminded me of it. Minnesota has similar weather, too.



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