I had sought it out many times with no success, but a couple of weeks ago I managed to obtain a DVD encrypted as DVD Region 1. And so when the DVD arrived, I then needed to buy a new multi-region DVD player just to watch the film!
The story follows Marie, who works at the Norwegian National Measurement Institute, her relationship with her metrologist father, her trip to Paris with the Norwegian prototype of the kilogram, her adventures with the kilogram and her relationship with Pi, a scientist who is now a gardener.
Sadly I have to report that although I enjoyed the film, I was disappointed.
The whimsy and insightful observation that characterise Hamer’s films is certainly there. But whereas it is concentrated in the trailer, it is diluted in the film itself.
The film has many great features:
For this metrologist as least – it had many many laugh-out-loud moments. The casting and characterisation (caricaturisation?) of the delegates to the BIPM meeting (i.e. people like me and my colleagues) is shockingly perfect; the scene in which the camera fleetingly captures two delegates asleep in a seminar is also true to life.
The metrologist’s obsession with minutiae and attention to detail is well-captured, both in Marie’s day-to-day work calibrating ski-slopes and petrol pumps – and in relationship to the kilogram. The moment that the delegates peer in to see the ‘Mother of all kilograms’ is exquisite.
And the cinematography is beautiful. The filming of the metrological artefacts and activities is delightful, and the depiction of the International Bureau of Weights and Measures (BIPM) is charming.
And I have to admit that tears did fill my eyes at the point where the meaning of the film’s title is revealed.
But overall I felt the film was just a little light on content, in both the storyline and dialogue. This may be because I lack Hamer’s Norwegian perspective. Or perhaps silence is a bigger part of personal interactions between Norwegians than it is between English people.
The lingering shots at the start and end of scenes that establish a sense of continuing stillness can eventually become irksome for the non-auteur. After a while I got the sense that these were simply padding to get the film past the 90 minute mark.
But overall, I do not regret the £62 I spent to see the film!
Back in 2014 I wrote:
Bent Hamer’s films about IKEA researchers and retired railwaymen were not really about IKEA researchers or retired railwaymen. And I am sure this film is not really about the kilogram.
It is probably about the same thing that every other Bent Hamer film is about: the weirdness of other people’s ‘normal’ lives, and by implication, the weirdness of our own lives. And how important it is to nonetheless grab whatever happiness we can from the passing moments.
I was right.
You can catch a more detailed review with spoilers here