I see it as a personal mission to watch as many of the Norwegian movies that come out as possible.
I hope that one day one of them will be fantastic so I can defend the Norwegian cinema against other Norwegians that think it sucks. But sadly, there haven’t been much these last years. Even when in 2016 the government gambled high on movies and produced 14 films in one year, nothing came out that really blew me away. Apparently, we are doing great on kids movies, but I am not really the demographic so not much to say on those. We have had some great films like Pinch cliff Grand-Prix and Dead Snow. And some decent ones like the Troll hunter and long flat balls. And even though we had some financial successes the last years like The Wave. I still don’t think we produce that much good honestly. And it hurts me because our neighbours are creating amazing stuff like Land of Mine and A man with name Ove. And Hoggern is just the last Norwegian movie in a long row of disappointments.
I should maybe warn about spoilers since I am going to talk about the film in its entirety, but honestly. Who is going to watch this?
I’ll cut right into the meat of things and talk about my biggest issue with this movie. This film blue balled me. For the uninitiated, Hoggern is about a depressed writer reclusing to his old country side home after his life is not working out. Here he meets old people from his past and uses chopping wood as a form of meditation while we slowly uncover his reasons for escaping in the first place. This all sounds fine and dandy if not unoriginal, but the problem is that it doesn’t lead to anything. The movie is very meditative and quiet with long neutral one-shots between the scenes of old people shit talking him. We then figure out his sister killed herself and he ambiguously attempts suicide when it was brought up, and then… credit roll.
Normally this would have been the point in movies where he made a choice of no return and consequences are set in action. We have been watching our protagonist passively nodding his way through the film with discussions that seemed pointless. This was an action that should change the very dynamics of the movie and lead to the climax and accumulate everything that has been talked about up to this point. Instead, it ends at the first independent choice he makes in this movie. And that he tried to kill himself is just one interpretation. You can also read it as he just took a swim in his clothes to cool off since he is shown taking a swim several times in the movie. And that makes him a passive protagonist throughout the entire movie. So I am left with an unfulfilling experience where nothing was gained. this is like watching Moonlight and then they ended the movie after the second time skip.
It was unfortunate that I didn’t get the chance to see the director talk about the movie at a local showing, but what I heard second hand did clarify a couple things for me. Apparently, this movie is supposed to be a personal meditation for the director. It’s his parents playing the old relatives, and the main character has the same first name as the director. It’s not too subtle if you look into it, but I don’t actually know how much of what actually happens in the movie occurred in the director’s life. But I certainly get the impression that the feelings are the same. But there is a problem with this way of filmmaking. It’s that I’m not the director.
I’m not saying that a personal introspection can’t become a movie. There have been several fantastic products like the Neon Genesis Evangelion series used by Anno to reflect and get through his depression, and Martin Scorsese’s Silence helped him talk about his confusing stance on religion. But the thing with Hoggern is that it doesn’t really do much to involve the audience and create a functional movie. And it’s a bit of a cop out with not having an ending if this is a personal search. It’s an unsatisfying discussion if you leave in the middle of it and yell “you figure it out” from the distance when you didn’t even make what the discussion is about clear, to begin with. I don’t mind ambiguity and open endings, but it’s something you have to earn. And if your movie doesn’t provide me with much substance and thoughts to reflect on, I don’t really know what to do with myself.
I don’t really recommend this movie to someone unless you really like Norwegian forests and a highly realistic atmosphere with long, neutral and clinical shots. As an example, at some point, there was a 2 minute stationary wide shot of the main character being out of breath from a jog.