Robert Hansen is the new police Marshall in the small town of Skarrild – and he and the town both meet with a small truckload of skeletons hidden away. He pops anti-depressants to help shield his thoughts from the past, and the town’s skeletons are alluded to in the opening voice over about the bog that runs nearby, a perpetual slough and convenient place to hide them.
Robert is a sympathetic presence, wary, quiet and apparently prepared to meet the local customs halfway. But the weird atmosphere soon has him entirely subsumed, as he is drawn into a drama of marital abuse, adultery and murder. The local residents are a colourful gallery of eccentrics and grotesques (though we see only a few of them) and the uncanny isolation is perfectly captured by repeated scenes set at the towns edge, a short street ending in a blank wall of fog; when we venture into the desolate beyond, it is to a flat barren landscape, northern cousin to the rural nowheres of Dumont and the Dardennes. The ease with which Robert aligns to the moral compass of the town sidesteps many standard fish-out-water tropes and the film reveals itself to be more of an individuals descent into a personal hell, via a really bad decision and a most unfortunate mistake.
Unlike the laidback old marshal he has replaced, Hanson is strictly by the book. He wont souse with the yokels at the bar, and has no interest in playing cards with a trio of the towns leading, and creepiest, denizens: a shifty doctor, a Lutheran priest, and a storekeeper. Besides, the villagers prefer to handle problems locallyslapping underage shoplifters rather than sending them to jail and, presumably, trotting miscreants off to the bog.
At first, Hanson balks at the locals traditions, but soon enough he gets entangled in true noir fashion: He falls hard for a slatternly blonde (Lene Maria Christensen) with a grudge against her loutish husband, the town thug, who smacks her and everyone else around. If that werent enough, he wears cowboy hats and bolo tieseven in remotest Scandinavia, it seems redneck bullies favor the usual accoutrements.
“Terribly Happy” is a rather cool unseen foreign flick. Taking cues from smaller personal flicks of the 1970s, we get the first true mean cop flick out of the land of the Viking. Others have made the comparison to the rediscovery of Cormac McCarthy, but I don’t get that sense of nihilism in this film. There’s this upbeat undercurrent to the material and you are left rooting for Robert Hansen. When it comes to your area, I’d recommend checking it out.
02/05/10 – New York, NY – Angelika Film Center
02/12/10 – Berkeley, CA – Landmark Shattuck
02/12/10 – Irvine, CA – Regal University
02/12/10 – Los Angeles, CA – Laemmle Sunset 5
02/12/10 – Pasadena, CA – Laemmle Playhouse
02/12/10 – San Francisco, CA – Landmark Lumiere
02/19/10 – Montclair, NJ – Clearview Clairidge
02/19/10 – Sag Harbor, NY – Sag Harbor Theater
02/26/10 – Portland, OR – Regal Fox Tower
02/26/10 – Washington, DC – Landmark E. Street
03/05/10 – Boston, MA – Landmark Kendall Square
03/05/10 – Chicago, IL – Music Box
03/12/10 – Austin, TX – Regal Arbor
03/12/10 – Seattle, WA – Landmark Varsity
03/26/10 – Minneapolis, MN – Landmark Lagoon
03/26/10 – Philadelphia, PA – Landmark Ritz
04/09/10 – Denver, CO – Landmark Chez Artiste
04/09/10 – Los Angeles, CA – Downtown Independent
04/09/10 – San Diego, CA – Landmark Ken
04/09/10 – Scottsdale, AZ – Camelview