An engagingly loopy comedy that sometimes struggles too hard to be significant, “Original” is not quite as original as it thinks it is, but still reps a promising first feature by Danish writer-directors Antonio Tublen and Alexander Brondsted. Winner of two awards at the Shanghai fest — for feature and lead actor Sverrir Gudnason — this David-Lynch-lite outing is fest and Eurocable material. Local release is skedded for the fall.
Gudnason, who also narrates, plays Henry, the son of a crazed Swedish inventor and a mad Danish actress (vet Ghita Norby), though he was raised by his aunt and now lives in Malmo, Sweden. After being fired from his boring bank job and ditched by his g.f., Henry falls in with Jon (David Dencik), who wants to open an eatery in Spain even though he can hardly cook.
The two likable losers set out in an RV to fulfill Jon’s dream (“Maybe it’s my destiny!” opines Henry), but a series of small events make it difficult for them to even leave Scandinavia. Stopping off at the local Ikea store, Henry meets and falls for wannabe singer Marie (Tuva Novotny, delightful). And when he and Jon cross over to Denmark, Henry pays a farewell visit to his mom, whom the sanitarium’s head doctor (Charlotte Fich) is trying to reprogram via some new medical technique.
On a whim, Henry tries to kidnap his mom, but fails. Later, at a Copenhagen club, he bumps into Marie, who’s been lured to the unsavory joint by promises of a singing gig.
The pic is starting to tread water when, at the 80-minute mark, a surprising twist throws everything the audience has been led to believe back into the blender. But the filmmakers undercut the whole tale with an ending that unnecessarily spells out the point of the exercise in capital letters.
For all the script’s talk of “finding ourselves” and being “a brilliant original” rather than a “pale copy,” the pic is essentially a low-key absurdist comedy, and none the worse for that. With his dimwit gaze, Gudnason makes a fine protag, but the color in the movie is provided by the supports, especially Novotny as the slightly demented love of his life, Dencik as the dreamer Jon, and Fich as the scarily authoritarian doctor.
The marginally pop-arty, retro look of the costumes and color scheme is supported by co-helmer Tublen’s attentive music score. Non-Scandi auds may miss the fact that the story keeps going back and forth between Sweden and Denmark.