Saturday, 2 March 2013

Slaying personal demons in the wilderness - "Zero Kelvin" [1995 Norway, Sweden]

Norwegians (and Scandinavians) are unique indeed - shaped by their rugged land and climate, they'd learned to thrive in places many would only consider 'extreme'. But it is also apparent that they're equally curious and contemplative about everything under the sun. I was struck by this while reading a recent news article about a Norwegian prime-time TV programme, that telecast a fireplace with burning firewood for eight straight hours. Part of an even longer programme dedicated entirely to firewood, the show was a success, with twenty percent of the country tuning-in at some point to comment, if anything, on the way in which the wood was stacked (bark-side up, or down). Apart from establishing the fact that Norwegians clearly have something cultural going on in relation to firewood, it shows that television doesn't necessarily have to be sensational in order to entertain. It also proves that Norwegians have a unique connection with trees, nature, and the outdoors...

Hans Petter Moland takes us outdoor too - this time, to the frozen Arctic wilderness, and throws his two squabbling protagonists inside a claustrophobic cabin, just to watch what happens. "Kjærlighetens Kjøtere" [Eng. Title: Zero Kelvin] is a psychological thriller-drama that pits diametrically opposite characters against each other, forcing them to survive by their wits in the middle of nowhere.

Set in the 1920's, young Oslo poet Larsen (Gard B. Eidsvold) joins a fur trading company and decides to spend a year in Greenland as a trapper. He'd hoped his fiancée Gertrude (Camilla Martens) would wait for his return, but she wastes no time in cancelling their engagement even before he sets sail. Larsen will live and work with supervisor and fellow-trapper Randbek (Stellan Skarsgård), and scientist Holm (Bjørn Sundquist) upon reaching Greenland. The foul-mouthed and ill-tempered Randbek, at first glance, comes across as the diametric opposite of Larsen - an easy-going and idealistic lad immersed in noble pursuits. Their personalities will inevitably clash, made more daunting by having to live alongside each other in a desolate cabin amidst the icy wilderness. Holm will leave them in disgust when their feud threatens to spiral out of control - deciding to take his chances with the bitter Arctic winter instead. With no one there to keep their tempers in check any more, Larsen and Randbek are now forced to watch their backs at all times in their tinderbox of a cabin. It's only a matter of time before it will become a battle for survival...

Larsen and Randbek - different as day and night, are but both sides of the same coin. There was a time when Randbek too had ideals and dreams - wanting to become a 'gentleman', like Larsen. Not any more. As bitter, spiteful, and cynical as Randbek might be these days, there'll still an element of truth in his rantings, hinting at a once ideal life that's completely turned sour. Larsen realises that, but is all the more determined not to turn into one himself. For that, he'll need to slay his own personal demons - whether it is about his ideas on morality, love, or forgiveness. This will be a coming-of-age that won't go unnoticed on Gertrude if she bumps into him the next time - and perhaps, may even elicit a different response if he proposed to her again.

Through this film, Moland has created a beautifully crafted allegorical gem in the pretext of a young idealist's Arctic adventure. The artful cinematography and direction portray a majestic landscape presiding philosophically over yet another age-old battle between good and evil, resident in every human. This is more than just an Arctic adventure - and like staring into burning firewood, a personal experience that is as much mystical as it is reflective. With a riveting performance from all the main cast, notably a superb Stellan Skarsgård, this is Highly Recommended Viewing..!

Amazon DVD Link [PAL]


The Nudity: Camilla Martens, Stellan Skarsgård, Gard Eidsvold, and Bjørn Sundquist
There is a single nude scene from Camilla Martens while her character spends time with Larsen before he sets out on his journey. There is also nudity from Stellan Skarsgård, Gard Eidsvold, and Bjørn Sundquist in a scene where they try to rid themselves of lice.

Camilla Martens, Stellan Skarsgård, Gard Eidsvold, and Bjørn Sundquist in Zero Kelvin


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