Tag Archives: Bahar Pars

Handle With Care

Handling the Undead

by George Wolf

With his source novel and screenplay for Let the Right One In, John Ajvide Lindqvist mixed vampire bloodlust and emotional bonds. Handling the Undead (Håndtering av udøde) finds Lindqyist turning similar attention to zombies, teaming with director/co-writer Thea Hvistendahl for a deeply atmospheric tale of grief, longing, and dread-filled reunions.

We follow three families in Norway, each one dealing with tragedy. An old man and his daughter (Renate Reinsve, The Worst Person in the World) have lost their young son/grandson; an elderly woman still grieves for her lifelong partner; while a man (Anders Danielsen Lie from The Worst Person in the World and Personal Shopper) and his children struggle to accept that the wife and mother they depend on (Bahar Pars) may now be gone.

Hvistendahl sets the stakes with minimal dialog and maximum sorrow. Characters move through sweaty summer days in a fog of grief that’s expertly defined by cinematographer Pål Ulvik Rokseth. They grasp at memories and battle regret over feelings left unexpressed.

And then an unexplained electro-magnetic event hits Oslo…and the dead aren’t so dead anymore.

In the film’s first two acts, Hvistendahl unveils these awakenings with a barren and foreboding tenderness. Everyone knows this can’t end well, but the tears of joy that come from seemingly answered prayers create moments that straddle a fascinating line between touching and horrifying.

How much of our grief is defined by selfishness? And how far could it push us before we finally let go?

Those may not be new themes for the zombie landscape, but the way Hvistendahl frames the inevitable bloodshed goes a long way toward making her shift of focus less jarring. While so much time is spent exploring the pain of those left behind, we know that eventually zombies gonna zombie.

And indeed they do, but Hvistendahl sidesteps excess carnage for a more subtle form of gruesome. The interactions between the living and the undead take on a surreal, experimental quality that seems plenty curious about whether we’d really think dead is better.

After all, the grieving family in Pet Sematary went asking for trouble. Here, the trouble comes calling, and Handling the Undead answers with a bleak but compelling study of desperation meeting inhuman connection.

A Movie that Gives Your Heart a Hug

A Man Called Ove

by Christie Robb

There’s a concept in the northern countries of Europe that helps the people there combat the rigors of the long, frigid, winter nights. It’s called gemütlichkeit in German, hygee in Danish, and mysig in Swedish and loosely translates as “cozy.” But it’s not just a sitting in front of a crackling fire, blanket on lap, warm drink in hand kind of physical cozy. The concept encompasses emotional coziness—friendliness, peace of mind, social acceptance. The Swedish film A Man Called Ove, exudes mysig.

It’s the story of a cantankerous old widower who has recently been counseled out of his 40+ year job. His life has shrunk to the point where his days are spent patrolling his neighborhood enforcing homeowners’ association rules, yelling about where dogs can answer the call of nature, and tossing junk at stray cats. His plan is to wrap up the loose ends of his existence, and then join his wife by taking his own life. But the plan is delayed by the young family that moves into the house across the street, running into his mailbox in the process.

And you probably know where the movie is going to go from there. You’ve seen versions of this story before: Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, Up, St. Vincent, etc. Crabby old guy softened by the connections made with a youngster. But that doesn’t make Ove any less charming.

In Hannes Holm’s adaptation of Fredrik Backman’s bestselling novel, Rolf Lassgård manages to make even the angriest, most nihilistic version of Ove seen in the first portion of the film somehow likable despite his rudeness. And, in flashback sequences that occur each time Ove attempts suicide, his life story is fleshed out, revealing past events that have contributed to his current demeanor. This makes his subsequent, often bumbling, attempts at increased connection more poignant. And the family that provides a catalyst for his change is helmed by the fantastic Parvaneh (Bahar Pars)—friendly, decent, very pregnant, and taker of absolutely zero-shit from anyone.

It’s the kind of movie that makes you appreciate the beauty in the small details in life, the mysig: a well-cared-for green plant perched in front of a frosty window, a child’s drawing, neighbors that know your name and wave to you from across the street, a car ride with your dad. It’s the kind of movie that you’ll appreciate as the temperature dips, the dark comes creeping ever earlier, and the sky takes on the appearance of soiled sidewalk. It’s the kind of movie that might be best enjoyed with a small group of good friends and a warm beverage.