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A film critic looks back

Among the head hunters and Nazis – The generation that restored Norwegian film
Forfatter: Kjetil Lismoen
Forlag: Tiden Norsk Forlag (Norge)
An emotional involvement in the film industry makes Lismen's book about Norwegian film stand out.


Editor of Rushprint and film critic in Aftenposten Kjetil Lismoen cares about the Norwegian film industry. The book is his selective and committed look at the history of Norwegian films and filmmakers' path from the bottom level of the 1980 century to the restoration of public confidence and international recognition with Norwave in the 1990 century. And we get his view of an industry that currently seems to be turning everything into gold: Norwegian films participate in prestigious festivals such as Cannes, Berlin and Toronto, and Norwegian directors stand for major ventures and box office records in Hollywood which Hansel and Gretel og The Imitation Game.

Lismoen is as much a witness of the time as a film analyst, and shares the noise from his close and candid conversations with significant film voices throughout – such as Hamer, Holst, Sletaune and Skjoldbjærg.

From chopsticks to Hollywood. Lismo's account of the restoration of Norwegian film starts colorful in 1980. At the time the bottom was reached, when the Norwegian film was largely slaughtered by the critics and was a favorite national hog.

The heroes of the book are the dedicated fiery souls who dare defy rejection and challenge film politics.

On to 1995: Total distrust between Norwegian feature films, audiences and critics. A well-known director (Wam) fables about killing a film critic who has misunderstood his latest masterpiece. Lismoen recalls that from the shooting trench position he was called "tabloid stupid" by the traumatized film director. The colored picture of time and the meeting with Svend Wam are written in the light of thought: the former noisy revolver journalist regrets what could have been a good meeting.

Lismoen does not sit at a distance and analyzes. He has invested a man's age and his identity in Norwegian film – is present at festivals and tries himself as a screenwriter in the writing collective "Screenwriters Oslo". Enthusiastic, he notices what in the film process makes the magical difference. Eureka experiences of what a film director adds to the film are a common thread in the book.

With Lismoen we meet – among others – the generation returning home from foreign film schools, which helps to renew the film and strengthen the audience. A bunch of Norwegian directors are being explained and defined as a separate phenomenon, "Norwave".

The film critic Lismoen is ruthless and compares Tyldum's film expression in the feature film Most people live in China, with a commercial for detergents. At the same time, he tells "starstruck" about Tyldum's energetic ability to lift and transform the script into a film (p. 72): . Everything went at breakneck speed. It was no coincidence that he originally wanted to be a dancer. " Lismoen's fascination with filmmaking and empathy in all parts of the film process is contagious.

Loss of momentum. The "Norwave" wave flattened out without reaching the promised peak. The momentum was not used well enough, Lismoen believes. Now also there are unnecessary obstacles in the way forward for Norwegian feature films. Concerned, he uses film history to point out the danger of talent unleashing. In this spirit, the dandelion story is retold Mongoland and the dialects' entry into Norwegian film, as well as the subsequent ripple effects for rural Norway, all the way to the literature. Lismoen reports insurmountable barriers and a state film support scheme with frighteningly little elasticity. He describes a support system that is often out of sync with the industry.

Lismoen himself, with his great love for "underdogs", is in total sync with the Norwegian film audience's sense of these. The heroes in the book are the dedicated fiery souls who dare to defy rejection, challenge film policy and thus are co-creators of our film history. Lismoen's accounts of these give the book a welcome color and character. And it provides an entrance to a deeper empathy in the film industry for the reader, which is drawn into the concrete struggle to make a film.

As an outsider, Lismoen sees the dead zone in the industry's inflated, short-term project-to-project perspective.

That Tommy Wirkola skipped smoothly over the until then obligatory career stop in Oslo is depicted with almost horror-mixed joy (p.117): "Kill Buljo was thus not an artistic performance. The film was groundbreaking primarily by its example, it showed that it was possible to make an all-night cinema film – with financial surplus – outside the established film environments, driven by pure enthusiasm, devilishness and a liberating dose of humor.

Blott Employment. Lismoen points out the danger of the government's unresolved goal of Norwegian film beyond the sale of cinema tickets, and warns that much is about to be lost in the hunt for visitor numbers. He writes at the beginning of the book (p. 9) that: «To be premise suppliers for 'the strongest cultural expression of our time' (…), Norwegian filmmakers keep a low profile in the public eye, and it may seem that the feature film is under pressure. The medium-sized films have disappeared from the cinema, and the audience is drawn to the drama series on television. It is too early to say whether it is an ancient heyday I describe in this book, but there are many indications that cinema has had its momentum. If the Norwegian feature film is to regain its leading position, it must become more effective, both commercially and artistically. "

The market scheme's need for the recognizable has triggered a landslide of serial film adaptations of popular books and well-known characters. According to Lismoen, the children's film has become a dairy cow – only one original children's film script has been made into a film in the last six years. The Berlin Festival asks where the Norwegian quality children's film has gone.

As an outsider, Lismoen sees the dead zone in the industry's forced, short-term project-to-project perspective. He calls for better talent management. He points out the directors' weakened role, which has gone so far that Sara Johnsen calls the director a "tenant". He warns of an urgent need for film policy action.

New rebuilding. Lismoen's time travel in Norwegian film policy and film production ends with Marikken Hale's statement (p. 179): «It is not the support system that will release Norwegian film. I think that the Norwegian film exists and is free, but the support system must understand its role. It should not be a power-demonstrating control body that discriminates against and protects the interests of certain companies, but as a place that should support art and culture. Where it happens, the way it happens. "

Throughout the book, Lismoen warns against serial production, and I still have an idea of ​​a Lismoen sequel about rebuilding Norwegian film ... 

Ellen Lande
Ellen Lande
Lande is a film writer and director and a regular writer for Ny Tid.

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