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Monday, July 25, 2016

MFF Review: Autumn Fall

With the success of Stieg Larsson's book series and subesquent movie adaptations a few years back, Nordic Noir seemed like the only thing coming out of Scandinavia, but if you're lucky you can catch a glimpse of something not quite so action-thriller.

Autumn Fall (Høst in Norwegian) is such a film; it captures a short period of time in a young woman's life as she struggles to forge meaningful relationships. Ingvild (Ingeborg Raustøl) works as a stage manager at the Oslo National Theater, and after a performance is rudely interrupted by the dangerously drunk and washed up old actor Jeppe (Helge Jordal), she finds herself unable to avoid him, and gradually develops a romantic relationship with the much older man.

I'll go ahead and say now that there is a rather large turn of events near the end of the film that changes things quite a bit; I don't wish to spoil it here, but suffice to say it puts their relationship in a totally new light, and actually alters the tone of the film to a point of no return, my main issue with the film. At that point, it becomes tragically dramatic, borderline Shakespearean (which, admittedly, goes with the theater motif), which I don't think works for the film.

Up until that turning point, Autumn Fall is nothing short of lovely. It captures in both visuals and music the feeling of a cool autumn day when there's nothing to do but stroll through the beautiful streets of Oslo, casually talking with a new friend. With its classy jazz score and cozy locations, it expresses the mood of an evolving new relationship perfectly, warming the viewer like a cup of hot chocolate on a cold day.

Of course outside of cinematography and music, this tone could not have been accomplished without the chemistry and impressive performances of the two lead actors, who really sell their newfound romance in a way that is both believable and sweet. They are both not without faults–they are no perfect couple–but they've found something that seems to work, and Raustøl and Jordal seem as though they are genuinely enjoying each other's company.

Because of the twist in the end and some unnecessarily included love scenes, this film to me feels like it would have been a phenomenal short that would stick in the back of your head for months. As a feature, however, it feels a bit overlong, and the shift in tone at the end kind of undoes the lovely atmosphere that it had so carefully crafted up to that point. Although the ending does in some ways tie into the themes of the film, the abruptness of it just didn't do it for me. Despite this, I can't say it isn't recommended; it's an intimate and relaxed film that is rare, and quite enjoyable for the most part.

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