Director: Eva Sørhaug
Starring: Aksel Hennie, Kaia Varjord, Bjørn Floberg, Annmari Kastrup, Mads Ousdal, Pia Tjelta
Oslo, Norway native and director Eva Sørhaug’s latest film 90 Minutes is being hailed by many as one, if not the first, of films to come out of Norway to grapple with the brutal murders committed by deranged Neo-Nazi Anders Breivek last year- an incident which managed to disturbed the Norway’s serene Nordic beauty.
Similarly to Sørhaug’s first feature film Cold Lunch (2008), 90 Minutes alternates between three very different characters’ lives, and Sørhaugh uses macabre and chilling acts of domestic violence to display various faces of brutality from unnervingly similar perspectives. My only gripe with 90 Minutes is that I can find little to no evidence of the film being reactionary in any sense, but much rather an expose on the sad and depressing lows human beings can sink to.
Sørhaugh’s film begins with an obscured shot of hundreds of human heads, bobbing up and down in what appears to be rush hour pedestrian traffic. Beginning on this solemn note, Sørhaug takes us to different Norwegian locals to meet our protagonists: Johan is a tired businessman with no desire to live, Fred is police officer who uncomfortably tries to kill time in now separated wife and kids’ house, and Trond (Aksel Hennie), a young man who paces around his half furnished apartment on a bender all while harbouring a dark secret in his bedroom.
This is really just a gist of what Sørhaugh’s film touches upon, as 90 Minutes’ creative and quite frankly show stopping framing pack this verbally minimalist film full of impact and sombre emotion. Sørhaugh’s impressive use of doorframes and the confines of dwellings echo the loudest in this film, and watching characters often pacing these boundaries, we too come to feel the monotony and the cold detachment these characters have to world outside of their walls.
Sørhaugh’s eye is indeed focused, but unlike a film like Gus Van Sant’s Elephant which monopolizes on intense, tension building, and quite literally over-the-shoulder viewpoints the only emotion that Sørhaugh accurately translates here is bleak disengagement. Trond’s story is easily the tensest of the 3, and Sørhaugh only seriously closes in on the horror of this young husband’s drug addiction and savage treatment of his wife and new born baby. Overall a brave foray into the solemn horror that brews within our walls but without any semblance of a contextual base, the only thing 90 Minutes achieves is its status as probably the most depressing film you’ll ever watch.