Cool and Crazy

It wasn't until long after I'd watched this movie about a 30-man choir in a Norwegian fishing village with an “uninterrupted view to the north pole” that it occurred to me it might not be a documentary. I did notice that parts of it were unabashedly staged, as when the group is shown performing outdoors, braving severe winter weather in picturesque images that fade to white, and I did think it a bit strange that some teenage girls began to pester the singers—mostly old men—for autographs after a concert in Russia that brought down the house. But then all documentarians contrive to some degree, and there's nothing unusual about director Knut Erik Jensen (Passing Darkness) moving the camera or even cutting from an interviewee to an object that represents the person's words as metaphor or twists them into irony (a pot boils over on the stove as a former activist bemoans his recent passivity). Still, Jensen's use of the conventions of documentary making—and his undermining of them in ways both bold and subtle—seems too canny and consistent for the form. Yet the harder I try to decide whether this is a documentary or a parody, the more I wonder why it matters. In Norwegian with subtitles. 105 min.

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