A Somewhat Gentle Man
In this exceptional and understated Norwegian film, Stellan Skarsgard plays Ulrik, a man recently released from prison after serving a 12 year sentence for killing his wife’s lover. The premise of the story is how he has to adjust to life as an ex-con, while contending with some of his former associates coming forward to ask more “favors” of him. From this point on, the film pulls the rug out from underneath just about every film cliché Hollywood might use to tell a similar story.
While watching the movie, one gets the sense that the characters are not built on standard archetypes, but on unique individuals that have unusual quirks and idiosyncracies which make them seem more real than the cookie-cutter characters populating slick crime movies. The banter between lowlife hoods Jensen and Rolf, who are trying to coerce Ulrik into doing one more job for them, is absurd and refreshingly funny. Their arguments over proper word choice in a sentence has more originality in a few minutes of screen time, than just about everything Tarantino wrote for Pulp Fiction.
This film has all sorts of opportunities to play it safe and rely on the usual tropes to develop scenes, and nearly every time, it undercuts them in attempt to create something wholly original. A thin strand of sub-plot, involving the lonely woman who rents a room to Ulrik, is intentionally clumsy and ugly, yet laced with cynical humor. The first “love scene” between the two of them defies description, and is one viewers may never completely excise from their memory.
The film is in Norwegian with English subtitles.
Running time is 105 minutes. Total theatrical gross in the U.S. was a whopping $35, 583 after playing on 1 screen.