review by Carrie Gorringe, 21 June 2002

28th Seattle International Film Festival

The winner of this year's Golden Space Needle Award, as chosen by audience members, was the Norwegian film, Elling. The film revolves around the live of two former patients of an asylum who are deemed ready for a half-way house life after spending two years as roommates in an asylum. After being established in a small government-run apartment in central Oslo, they must learn to deal with life on their own. They face considerable hurdles: both are, not surprisingly, socially inept: Elling (Per Christian Ellefsen) suffers from agoraphobia, and Kjell (Sven Nordin), a big, shaggy bear of a man, is obsessed with sex. Their considerably inept attempts at social reintegration increasingly frustrates the social worker (Jørgen Langhelle) assigned to their case; although sympathetic to their situation, he has to continually remind them that too many failures (many of them hilarious) will result in their return to the asylum. This description might read as the source material for a screwball comedy, and, indeed, Elling is overflowing with humor, but the film is really more than a series of cheap one-offs. Director Peter Naess and screenwriter Axel Hellstenius accomplish a feat that seems to be almost extinct in contemporary comedy: they wrap it in a layer of well-woven sensibility, meaning that they have crafted an exquisite film full of compassion without ever patronizing their characters. Neither Elling nor Kjell seem like products that have simply been dreamed up from a screenwriter's imagination; their behavior, dreams and hopes cannot be dismissed as something "different" from the rest of "normal" society. There's a genuine sense of empathy between audience and character. Despite a few (and minor) narrative stumbles near the end of the film, Elling is a worthy recipient of this year's award.

Seattle International Film Festival Coverage:



Directed by:
Peter Naess

Per Christian Ellefsen
Sven Nordin
Marit Pit Jacobsen
Per Christiansen
Jorgen Langhelle

Written by:
Ingvar Ambjornsen
Alex Hellstenius

NR - Not Rated.
This film has not yet
been rated.






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