Thursday, February 23, 2017

A Man Called Ove: Monday, February 20 2017

A Man Called Ove (2016) is a Swedish film, based on the book of the same name, written by Fredrik Backman (2012). The film was written and directed by Hannes Holm, and he does a good job. There is never a dull moment, and no chance of having a little sleep, or meditation, whilst watching it.

Rolf Lassgard plays Ove, and grabs the attention of the audience from the first moment. He is a grumpy old man, but as his story unfolds, we come to understand the great sorrows in his life that are driving his behaviour. Typical of so many Scandinavian people, and I include Scottish people here, he is emotionally immature. He buys into the idea that to show emotions is a sign of weakness. He hasn't learned to express his feelings, so finds it hard to work through them. Rolf Lassgard plays the part to perfection. Filip Berg as the young Ove, and Ida Engvoll as Sonja, are well-cast.

Bahar Pars is Parvaneh, the wife of Patrick Lufsen, played by Tobias Almborg They are the younger couple who move in as Ove's neighbours. Parvaneh means Butterfly in Persian. Exotic, and from a much warmer emotional culture than that of Sweden, Parvaneh reaches out to Ove. She and her two daughters, help melt the hard shell surrounding Ove. He unfolds his story to the sympathetic Persian, and in so doing finds his loving heart. He becomes the family's adopted grandfather, and they give his life warm meaning. This could be seen as symbolic of the positive effect immigrants from a different culture can have on the host culture.

Nominated for an Oscar in the Best Foreign Film category, A Man Called Ove is already doing better at the box office than any other foreign film, which would seem to indicate that people like it. The story is perfect from the point of view of telling a story that is one of the classics. It follows the formula of the protagonist being emotionally weakened by an event: we learn what the event was and can sympathize; a new person comes into the picture; and that new person unravels the emotional knots so that the protagonist can again move forward in life. The box office has spoken, and rewarded the makers of a film that makes us "feel good".

When films for the Oscars in the category of Best Picture are judged, they are all of high, professional standard in all the different aspects of their craft. For that Award, does content of the story come into the picture at all, I wonder. If it is Art that is the criterion, then Moonlight ought to win. If a realistic portrayal of a segment of real life, then Manchester by the Sea ought to win. If an insight into a piece of American culture is looked for, with a situation that is universal, then Fences ought to win. If a cynical piece, designed without feeling for music or dancing, purely for people looking for a light, fluffy film that makes them feel better than any of these aforementioned, then La La Land is it. If an uplifting story of people overcoming huge obstacles to achieve great things, and making us "feel good" in the process, is what is looked for, then Hidden Figures ought to be given the coveted Oscar.

It will be fascinating to learn which film the Academy has chosen to award the Oscar for Best Picture. And will A Man Called Ove win the Oscar for the Best Foreign Film?

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