Subscription 790/year or 190/quarter

Dancing without freedom

Regissør: Jorunn Myklebust Syversen

NORWEGIAN GAME MOVIE / Jorunn Myklebust Syversen's second feature film is a strong and disturbing portrayal of social control in Norwegian Pentecostal communities.


"We have just enough religion to make us hate, but not enough to make us love each other." I came to think of this quote by author Jonathan Swift when I saw Jorunn Myklebust Syversen's new feature film Disc. Admittedly, there are probably more relevant quotes regarding the film's content, but those words were already in my mind after I recently heard them in a song by the Austrian artist Falco. (The extended maximum version of "Satellite to Satellite", thank you for asking!) And in a sense, it is fitting to start the text about a religion-critical movie called Disc with a religion-critical quote I came across in a pop song.

Distinctive voice

Jorunn Myklebust Syversen graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Bergen, and debuted two years ago with whale. Here she portrayed a man in crisis of life moving from the city to his deceased parents' small farm in Hallingdal, where he seeks solitude and physical forestry. The film was exemplary minimalist in its narrative and testified to an original and exciting new voice in the Norwegian film landscape that was able to combine humor, seriousness, absurdity and authenticity. The latter was reinforced by the fact that the lead actors Anders Baasmo Christiansen and Benjamin Helstad were probably the only professional actors, while a couple of the other roles were occupied by the director's own family members – without this resulting in embarrassing variations in the style of play.

In her second feature film, Myklebust Syversen has left her home region for the benefit of a Christian environment she has, in turn, thoroughly explored through extensive research. Disc is about 19-year-old Miriam, who is the reigning world champion in "freestyle disco dancing", the leader of the Free Church's youth group and the vicar of the church's charismatic pastor.

This time most of the characters are played by established actors, with Josefine Frida (formerly Josefine Frida Pettersen) from Shame in the lead role and Nicolai Cleve Broch, Kjærsti Odden Skjeldal, Andrea Bræin Hovig and Espen Klouman Høiner in other key roles. But the film also offers a reunion with filmmaker cousin Terje Syversen, here in the role of "The Money Preacher". In addition to being the main character's uncle, he represents one of the two competing congregations included in the film. Like Freedom, these too have their origin in the Pentecostal movement.

Pressure for perfection

A more conventional movie would probably have put more emphasis on the main character's quest to win new championships, and confronted her with a difficult choice between dance and church values. IN Disc however, Miriam has the support of the family; they are proud of her competition on the dance floor.

With unbelievable credibility, the character appears as one
mix of jovial youth leader, narcissistic
pop star and passive-aggressive manipulative head of family.

“The congregations seem to appreciate and cultivate young, resourceful, beautiful, beautiful people, and if you are also good at singing (whatever the main character is, journ. Note) you rise quickly in the ranks. The jumpers I've talked to talk about a great deal of pressure to be perfect, "Myklebust Syversen said recently in an interview with industry magazine Rushprint.

According to the filmmaker, the environments are apparently liberal, but at the same time promote a literal interpretation of the Bible. The film's Miriam does have trouble maintaining her position in the dance, but this is primarily due to an inner turmoil that comes to the surface – and which seems to have a bearing on both self-doubt, a desire to know the truth about certain events from the past and a physical and mental exhaustion after living an ideal of perfection.

Disco Director and screenwriter Jorunn Myklebust Syversen

With the latter depicts Disc problems many struggle with in the so-called generation of achievement, here set in a Christian subculture with strong elements of social control – something that is heard much more widely in connection with Muslim environments. In addition to the leading role-holder Frida, Nikolai Cleve Broch in particular is to be commended for his efforts in the role of charismatic pastor. With unbelievable credibility, the character appears as a mixture of jovial youth leader, narcissistic pop star and passive-aggressive manipulative head of family.

Disc draws a picture of a culture with an almost complete absence of freedom, where the alternative, competing faith communities also set a strict framework for the individual – presumably with the best intentions. In other words, it is not really about disco dancing, but about social control in closed environments. That way could The freedom have been an equally fitting, albeit ironic, title.

International attention

Like whale are also Disc made through the Norwegian Film Institute's New Roads scheme, which emphasizes talent development and supports innovative and not particularly high-budgeted film projects. But there whale was quite different from most produced in Denmark as well as abroad, the new (and less humorous) film is more reminiscent of the "arthouse" films that usually make their mark at international film festivals. Well to note without that Disc are some worse movie than its predecessor.

In both expression and theme, the film can give associations to Ulrich Seidls Paradise: Faith and Dietrich Brüggemanns Cross road, although less tabular than those in form and structure. Photographer Marius Matzov Gulbrandsen's camera also avoids unnecessary movement, but is not afraid to get a close look at the characters, creating well-functioning contrasts between colorful stage and dance performances and the more soberly realistic depictions of daily life.

Disc has also been selected for major film festivals such as Toronto and San Sebastián, and has consequently placed Myklebust Syvertsen on the international film map. With both this and Dag Johan Haugeruds Children (in addition to Maria Sødahl's long-awaited second feature film Hope will premiere next month) is our domestic film production in an exceptionally good autumn, with artistically strong depictions of Norwegian reality on film. One can only hope that the country's moviegoers also give these films the attention they deserve.

Disc has Norwegian cinema premiere October 4, co premiere which «Centerpiece» of Bergen International Film Festival.

Aleksander Huser
Aleksander Huser
Huser is a regular film critic in Ny Tid.

You may also like