A cold, grey breeze of Nordic film

  • 2005-10-05
  • By Elizabeth Celms
RIGA - Some things are worth writing about again and again. Riga's annual Nordic Film Festival is one of them. For those who live in Latvia, even a reminder is redundant 's it comes every year, at the same time, and is looked forward to by anyone who knows film, especially Nordic Film.

Drab. Grey. Serene. Heart-wrenchingly good. This, in a nutshell, is Scandinavian film. Some would even say Scandinavia, period.

Comprising the most recently acclaimed films from Iceland, Finland, Sweden, Norway and Denmark, the festival has earned itself a respected reputation in Riga.

From Oct. 14 's 20, audiences will be able to choose from a list of dramas, short film, documentaries and a good dose of Nordic humor 's to balance out the melancholy, I suppose.

Denmark's illustrious Lars Von Trier, known for his Dogma films, will surely be the highlight of this year's repertoire. The long-awaited sequel to his 2003 film "Dogville," the first part of Von Trier's envisioned trilogy on America, "Manderlay" will undoubtedly stun audiences as much as its predecessor.

This provocative film continues the saga of Grace (Bryce Dallas Howard) and her father (William Dafoe) as they move to Manderlay, a plantation in Alabama where Grace witnesses the injustice of slavery and oppression. The film has already received wide acclaim, and stirred just as much controversy.

The co-founder of Dogma '95, Thomas Vinterberg, will be represented with his latest film "Dear Wendy," which was scripted by Von Trier. Exploring "the self-referentiality of filmic space," Vinterberg prods at the idea of secret societies, obsessive ideology and blind pacifism. Another critique of America, "Dear Wendy" has Von Trier's name all over it.

Yet Von Trier and Vinterberg aren't the only Scandinavians that know how to provoke. Lukas Moodysson's "A Hole in my Heart" (Sweden, Denmark) was shot secretly by a handful of filmmakers in 17 days. The film boldly steps, scene by scene, into a world of drugs, porn and general chaos in a provincial Swedish apartment. Distributors have already warned cinemas to restrict viewing for youth, not to mention the weak-kneed and soft-hearted. Moodysson is best known for "Lilja 4-Ever," a devastating film about a teenage Russian girl being trafficked to Sweden.

Scandinavia does, believe it or not, have a lighter side. "The Gourmet Club," a Finnish comedy by Juha Wuolijoki, pokes fun at five elderly men bound by their love for good food. Their exclusive club takes a turn for the worse when one member is driven into financial crisis. Their solution to the problem, needless to say, is where things get funny.

With a documentary on Bjork and The Sugarcubes 's perhaps the only reason much of the world knows a place called Iceland exists 's and a few more dramas and short films, this year's festival is the full dish. Although the Baltic states are in little need of Northern gloom, a breath of Scandinavian film is always welcome.

Nordic Film Festival

Oct. 14-20

Kino Riga

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