' ' Cinema Romantico: CIFF Review: 1001 Grams

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

CIFF Review: 1001 Grams

"1001 Grams" centers around the Norwegian national kilo which is kept under scrupulous security at the nation's institute for weights and measures, a premise that blatantly belies its thematic intention to explore the balance a person tries to maintain in his or her life. Of course, as "Michael Clayton's" Karen Crowder once so ominously noted, that balance is "a shifting balance", one that is not so much a struggle to maintain as to find.

A film treating a kilogram with the reverency of "original, not rereleased - underlined - Frank Zappa albums" is clearly intended as an affair of the quirky, and director Bent Hamer gleefully obliges. He layers his films with smart cars and bird songs and cutesy shots like a gaggle of scientists walking single-file in the rain with matching umbrellas. Counteracting this quiet if insistent vibe of cutsiness, however, is matter-of-fact Marie (Ane Dahl Torp). An early shot finds her in a queen-sized bed but all wrapped up in a comforter and blanket straddling only one side, leaving the other empty. This is because, as we learn, her husband has left her. Yet more than that this bit of evidential characterization reveals her as someone so rigidly precise that if a portion of her mattress is rendered unoccupied, she will take painstaking care to ensure it remains spotless.

Her Nordic blonde hair often pulled back in tight ponytails, her demeanor rarely betraying emotion, Marie easily could have devolved into a brittle ice queen. But Dahl's performance matches the character's precision, her general air in tune with a home of sleek living room furniture that she ignores to sit on a bench along the wall, as if the arrangement is so faultless she cannot dare disturb its symmetry. Of course, her life balance, as it must be, is shifted when her father passes away. And seeing as how he was the institute's representative to squire Norway's kilo to the annual conference in Paris where it is inspected to ensure it has retained its official condition, the job is passed from father to daughter.

Naturally transporation of the kilo goes awry, further symbolizing an already symbolic descent into weightlessness of the soul, and it will all be rectified by The Frenchman In The Jaunty Hat, the male counterpart to The Manic Pixie Dream Girl (er, strike that!). She takes down her hair, literally, in his presence, as his birdsong-listening and tree-planting ways cause her to embrace the vitality of life. And all of this, to be honest, might be a tad unbearable if Torp didn't sell it by not really selling it at all - by which I mean she convincingly crafts a closed-off individual, one who isn't lurching so much as listing. If the quirky pieces of plot threaten to throw the scale out of whack, it is Torp who keeps it properly weighted.

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