First Scandinavian coproduction is a fine mixture of an adaptation of a book by a noted Norwegian writer, the long-dead Nobel prizewinner Knut Hamsun, two Swedish thesps and a Danish director and adapter.
Pic is a taut tour-de-force about a time of hunger and near breakdown of a talented writer in turn-of-the-century Norway. Its relentless dwelling on anguish, plus the brilliant playing of Per Oscarsson, keep this from ever being stilted or repetitive.
Oscarsson is a scrawny, black-clad young man waiting for a reaction from an editor on an article he has written. He is reduced to eating paper, pawning his things, succumbing to hallucination but still refusing to ask for help. A brief interlude with a girl who spurns him puts the last touch on his resistance.
The director, Henning Carlsen, holds a firm visual rein on the proceedings and creates the period, eschewing sentimentality and didacticism. Gunnel Lindblom is enticing and unpredictable as the girl.