Kitchen Stories

"Extraordinary"

Kitchen Stories Review


This uniquely eccentric comedy about a spurious scientific study of men's kitchen behavior has little to say about that but leaves an indelible impression about social affinity and relationships. Set in the wintry climes of Norway, it slyly pokes fun at how wrong-headed researchers can become when they go off on a theoretical tangent.

It's based on a project by the Home Research Institute in Sweden to map and analyze the presupposed inefficiency of male bachelors in their kitchens, so that it might be compared to the findings of a previous study on women. The misguided notion behind it is the belief that the results of such an analysis could shape society with reason and logic. To perform this service, teams of observers are dispatched to set up stations in the kitchens of volunteers throughout the country with every intention of proving the theory.

Izak (Joachim Calmeyer) volunteers because he thinks the horse promised to him as recompense for his discomforts is real. Only the greatness of his need (the one he has is dying) would make him amenable to the outlandish idea of having a perfect stranger sit and watch him as he prepares meals.

The disappointment of finding a toy horse outside his front door on the morning of his researcher's arrival doesn't exactly inspire him to live up to the contract he signed and, for days, he refuses to acknowledge the man outside who wants to come in and do the observing. Add to that the impression that he's a generally grumpy individualist who doesn't suffer fools gladly.

But researcher Folke Nillson (Tomas Norstrom) is not a man to give up easily. His very job requires persistence and a scientist's cool objectivity. Finally, after days of waiting and cajoling, the door opens. Folke quickly sets up his observation chair, a high one like that of a tennis umpire's, in a corner of the kitchen, with his room maps and observation forms at the ready.

The rules, however, are strict: no personal interraction with the subject; no engaging in conversation, nor any reliance upon his host for anything. The researcher must attend to his needs completely independently. For this purpose, his small oval trailer is parked outside the isolated Landstad farmhouse, where he eats and sleeps.

But such objective distance within the confines of one room can't last forever, and the real study becomes how long it takes to have the rules compromised until they collapse and break down by the inevitable need of people to communicate. The wry humor behind it lies in the specific steps in the evolution of social attraction. Director Bent Hamer, working from a script he wrote with Jörgen Bergmark, takes satiric pleasure in bringing reluctant subject and determined observer from awkward strangers to a bond of mutual respect. It's a painstaking process of considerable restraint, making much of gravitation toward natural impulses.

Both actors are adept at the blank expression and deadpan reactions; both are leading exponents of their country's talent. Calmeyer, the hermetical bachelor subject, is one of Norway's most acclaimed actors with classical and TV backgrounds. Reine Brynolfsson plays Malmberg, the zealous project overseer (the "bad guy" of the piece) with officious correctness and the right stiff-backed dedication. Grant (Bjørn Floberg), Izak's neighbor, has the most demonstrably emotional part as the jealous buddy being supplanted by the new guy in his pal's affections.

This sweet, understated comedy-drama, based on taking a laugh at 1950s Swedish, commercially-motivated, scientific overkill, was Norway's official entry for the Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award of 2003. But though it didn't get nominated there, it's already a winner, having been picked up for theatrical release in the U.S. -- not exactly a slam dunk for most foreign language entrants.

If you liked the sly, understated humor of Man Without a Past, this will be right up your funny bone.

Aka Salmer fra kjøkkenet, Psalmer från köket, Psalms From the Kitchen.

30-Love.



Kitchen Stories

Facts and Figures

Run time: 95 mins

In Theaters: Friday 17th January 2003

Distributed by: IFC Films

Production compaines: Svenska Filminstitutet, BOB Film Sweden AB, Bulbul Films

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 89%
Fresh: 67 Rotten: 8

IMDB: 7.4 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Producer: Jörgen Bergmark, ,

Starring: as Isak Bjørvik, as Folke Nilsson, Bjørn Floberg as Grant, as Malmberg, as Dr. Jack Zac. Benjaminsen, Jan Gunnar Røise as Vaktmesterassistent, Leif Andrée as Dr. Ljungberg, Lennart Jähkel as Green

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