Tag Archives: Norwegian film

Horse Thief

Out Stealing Horses

by Hope Madden

So much for going Hollywood.

Prolific Norwegian filmmaker Hans Petter Moland follows up his first foray into blockbuster territory—a Liam Neeson-fronted English language remake of his own vengeance thriller Cold Pursuit—with the decidedly non-blockbuster, specifically Norwegian drama Out Stealing Horses.

This pensive and utterly gorgeous film sifts through time to land on the moment that irreversibly alters the course of a life.

In this case, it’s Trond’s life. It’s winter of ‘99—almost the millennium—and the aging Trond (Stellan Skarsgård) is just settling into hermithood. Though he’s been in Sweden for years, the death of his wife in a car accident (he was at the wheel) convinced him to cross the river back to his childhood home of Norway to sit quietly and think.

And then he meets his neighbor, who inadvertently stirs up memories and gives Trond’s meditation new direction.

Moland adapts Petterson’s beloved novel, streamlining until what’s left is an extremely intimate tale only mildly hampered by the tiresome flashback structure. Moland only hints at the novel’s historical context, instead developing a sense of fearful awe in the face of life, the small moments that determine an individual’s trajectory, and the insistent longing to imagine what could have been.

The technical mastery at work in this film—from sound design to lighting, from Rasmus Videbæk’s gorgeous cinematography to Kaspar Kaee’s unerring score—adds power to Moland’s every meditative moment. In perfect harmony with the team, Moland effortlessly evokes the senses throughout this sometimes Malick-esque photo album of the summer that everything changed.

Moland and team create the glimmering, lush and gorgeous memories Trond relives—too gorgeous to be exact, but exactly as gorgeous as needed to be memory.

Out Stealing Horses can’t quite make the current-day footage ache or resonate quite so clearly. The events adult Trond deals with feel artificial, a forced structure. But that doesn’t rob the film of its magic.

Free Bird


by Hope Madden

A surprising, gorgeously filmed prologue creates a mood: a little girl, bundled in a red coat, follows her shotgun-toting father across a frozen pond into the snowy woods. She looks periodically through the ice at the fish moving beneath the ice. In the quiet woods, the two spy a deer. The girl holds her breath, staring silently at the animal while her father prepares to shoot.

The film never again rises to the exquisite, icy tension of its opening scene, but it does work your nerves and keep you guessing. As we follow that little girl, Thelma (Eili Harboe), through the uncomfortable, lonely first weeks of college we gather that her parents are very Christian and very over-protective.

Things could have gone all predictable and preachy from there, but co-writer/director Joachim Trier knows what you’re thinking and he plans to use it against you.

Thelma is a coming-of-age film at its cold, dark heart. The horror here lies in the destructive nature of trying to be something you are not, but here again, nothing in Thelma is as simple or cleanly cut as the beautiful framing and crystal clear camera work suggest.

As familiar as many of the conflicts feel, Trier never lets you forget that something’s not entirely right about Thelma. She seems normal, maybe just sheltered, but that opening scene nags at you.

Like Julia Ducournau’s magnificent coming-of-age horror Raw, Thelma dives into the issues swirling around post-adolescent freedoms and taboos in daring and insightful ways. Trier also fills the screen with metaphorical dangers of indulgence and self-acceptance, although his protagonist’s inner conflicts lead to different results. Where Raw’s horror is corporeal, Thelma’s is psychological.

Thelma takes its time and lets its lead unveil a fully realized, deeply complex character full of contradictions—inconsistencies that make more sense as the mystery unravels. Though the result never terrifies, it offers an unsettling vision of self-discovery that’s simultaneously familiar and unique.