A “Happy, Happy” story of love from Norway?

Lust blinds.  Love confounds. “Happy, Happy” is the feature-length debut of Anne Sewitsky.  Each of us has faced the questions of whether someone is the one for us.  Sometimes the answer to that question is easy; it’d be great to know that life.  What happens when you have to face the fact that you chose the wrong partner and lover?

This not quite love story opens at the Uptown Theatre on October 7th.

“Happy, Happy,” a Norwegian film, confronts that question in sensitive and sloppy ways.  There are two very different couples, neither of which is happy.  One man is fleeing from the memories of his wife’s infidelity.  One woman isn’t sure why her man feels nothing for and in fact belittles her.  And why he’s fine with ignoring his reasons why.

A happy marriage – each to someone else. (Courtesy: Magnolia Pictures)

Love is often a compromise, but how much do you give or give up for happiness?  In this story of love, which might not be a love story, an educated couple Sivge (Henrik Rafaelsen) and Elisabeth (Maibrett Saerens) rents a house from and is greeted by a provincial and friendly couple, Eirik (Joachim Rafaelsen) and Kaja (Agnes Kittelsen). Elisabeth and Sivge are professionals, while Kaja and Eirik do…we don’t know what.  Each couple has a son.  Elisabeth and Sivge is adopted from Ethiopia.  Why they are in this story is a mystery – neither helps the story.  Mysteriously Kaja no longer interests Eirik.  Some months ago Elisabeth cheated on Sivge.

Kaja, made vulnerable by Eirik’s chronic disinterest in and belittling of her, finds a role model in Sivge and Elisabeth, and a distraction in Sivge.  He finds a refreshing and welcome warmth and sweetness in Kaja.  But Eirik faces a different, confusing problem: why’d he choose Kaja?  What does he want?

This is a competent film with problems, which make you scratch your head: there’s a bizarre, awkward subplot concentrating on Elisabeth and Sivge’s adopted Ethiopian son.  For an inexplicable reason, after having found a children’s book on slavery, Kaja and Eirik’s son decides to play “slave” games with the boy.  He somewhat playfully treats him as one.

How does love look when you want the other's partner? (Courtesy: Magnolia Picture)

These distractions work like a musical segment from a circa mid-20th-Century movie: a Negro band plays a song, which is irrelevant to the movie, and, which when played in the South, could be removed so that it wouldn’t offend that region’s sensibilities.

There’s a palate-cleansing devise bombs:  a choral group, which sings between acts.  While the songs suit the story sometimes, they don’t serve it.  The subplots don’t support or propel the main story – they give nothing to it.  If the director had omitted either of these problems, she could’ve also omitted at least 15-minutes from the film.

This is a competent film with a nice, quiet and smart story.  But doesn’t need to run for much longer than an hour.

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