Dir: Hans Petter Moland
Starring: Stellan Skarsgård, Bjørn Floberg, Gard B. Eidsvold, Jannike Kruse, Jan Gunnar Røise and Jorunn Kjellsby.
A Somewhat Gentle Man is a different kind of gangster film, one that focuses on life after prison for a man and what he really wants to achieve.
Stellan Skarsgård plays Ulrik, whom we meet as he gets out of prison after a 12 year stint for murder. We don’t know the details, but this quiet and yes gentle man hardly seems the type. We soon find out he was a gangster, under the influence of Jensen (Bjørn Floberg). Jensen doesn’t seem like a bad man either, and he sets up Ulrik with a place to stay and and a mechanic job. It becomes clear that Jensen wants Ulrik to kill the man who snitched and got him sent to prison, however Ulrik is more content with making amends with his estranged son Geir (Jan Gunnar Røise), who is expecting a child with his girlfriend and lived the last 12 years of his life pretending his father was dead.
I honestly don’t remember how many Norwegian films I have seen, and at least recently I don’t recall having seen any. I wasn’t sure what to expect with this film, and how a gangster film would play out. But this isn’t your typical genre film, it is actually as quieter one and very focused on characters. The situations that Ulrik finds himself in are pretty crazy considering. For one, Jensen’s sister Margrethe (Jorunn Kjellsby) whom Ulrik lives with as a boarder decides to use a type of black mail to get sex out of him. These scenes are not easy to watch, and are quite dark in humour. Ulrik also somehow ends up shagging his estranged wife, an act that comes out of nowhere. And then he gets involved with his co-worker Merete (Jannike Kruse), after he saves her from her abusive ex-husband. As strange as this all is, the only real normal part of his ‘adventures’ is Ulrik trying to reconnect with his son. One of the best scenes in the film (and one that showcases Skarsgård’s talent to the max) is when Ulrik sees Geir and his girlfriend sharing a moment of laughter and from afar Ulrik joins in. It is clear that he wants to be apart of their life, but due to past circumstances (his prison stint) it becomes impossible.
A Somewhat Gentle Man is a really great film; it is well made in every which way. The performances are fantastic, with Skarsgård really showing his range as an actor. This was a very different role for him, and he was fantastic in it. I probably could have done without the bizarre sex scenes but that comes down to personal tastes. The rest of the cast were all exceptional, with Gard B. Eidsvold as Rolf, Jensen’s right hand man being the maniacal stand out. Jan Gunnar Røise as Geir was also very good, and there was a natural chemistry between himself and Skarsgård. They very much felt like the estranged parent and offspring, and this is a big factor in their story working so well.
The film was expertly shot, it would have been easy for the filmmakers to go the route of a handheld camera feel, but they didn’t. It worked so much better because of this; it felt natural without feeling it was trying too hard to be. The cinematography was brilliant, every scene seemed to have such a beautiful feel to it, no matter what was going on. The script was well written by (Kim Fupz Aakeson), and off the bat I’d suspect it was based on something more personal. Hans Petter Moland did a great job at directing the piece, and each of the elements came together really well. This is an enjoyable film, as well as a sad one but it will leave you feeling good. It is easy to see why this was an audience favourite on the Film Festival circuit.
The Australian DVD
The DVD I reviewed was a screener, so I am unable to comment on Picture/Audio quality.
DVD details here.
Thanks to Bill at Gryphon Entertainment care of The Analogue Titles for the copy.