Thursday, 3 January 2008

Torill Kove "The Danish Poet"

Torill Kove won an Oscar for Best Short Animation with her 2006 movie, The Danish Poet. The screenshot gives a clear indication of artistic style but this is, first and foremost, a movie to be enjoyed for its delicious humour. I think it fair to point out that it took me a minute or two to get into the story of life's little coincidences that lead to the meeting of two young people who fall in love and the subsequent birth of a baby. The movie is deceptive in its humour and takes time to develop. The first thirty seconds seem almost poetic as the obviously Scandinavian voice of Liv Ullmann (she does both this and the Norwegian version) introduces in diagrammatic terms the random selection of how, "without rhyme or reason", parents are chosen. We are introduced to the Danish poet, Kasper Urgenson, working in his apartment in Copenhagen and devoid of ideas. Only after 75 seconds or so does it dawn on us that this is a comedy as Doctor Mork dispenses advice and cigar smoke. Kasper is advised to take a holiday. Norway is "cheap and they're practically Danish." We're into comic territory now and when Kasper goes to visit Sigrid Undset for inspiration the movie has us gripped in its gentle, droll humour. For example the ferry is populated by drunken passengers. Now I've never travelled on a Scandinavian ferry though if it bears any relation to the North Sea ferry between Hull and Rotterdam the description is apt. On his travels Kasper meets and falls in love with the farmer's daughter, Ingeborg, who sadly is promised to a nearby farmer who seems to have had rough time in his past with in-breeding and poor dental treatment. There are some moments in the film that made me laugh aloud during its 15 minutes. Sipping coffee at the computer I managed to splutter all over the keyboard as Ingeborg, sitting up in bed, reveals the problems in her marriage. The animation by Torill, Astrid Aakra and Bjarte Agdestein is sharp and bright, even when depicting the rain that, amongst all sorts of Scandinavian stereotypes and in-jokes, is evidently very prevalent in Norway. Hand drawn, scanned and coloured, with the skies painted in oil by Anne Ashton, the artwork is distinctive. (The factual detail comes almost verbatim from the website from where you can download various scenes and purchase the DVD.) Alternatively I note the movie has appeared on YouTube (The Danish Poet 1/ The Danish Poet 2) and on Daily Motion (The Danish Poet). I'm sure there are all sorts of insights about the little accidents and coincidences that make us what we are but in her tale of Kasper the poet who finds inspiration, love, fame and fortune, Torill has created something decidedly special. And very funny.

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