Kitchen Stories

A warmly observed humanist comedy about misguided social conditioning and the redeeming value of friendship and individuality, Bent Hamer's "Kitchen Stories" has the same appealing light touch as the Norwegian director's 1995 debut "Eggs." New pic also has a similar odd couple dynamic and fascination with difficult yet enduring male relationships.

With:
Isak - Joachim Calmeyer Folke - Tomas Norstrom Grant - Bjorn Floberg Malmberg - Reine Brynolfsson

A warmly observed humanist comedy about misguided social conditioning and the redeeming value of friendship and individuality, Bent Hamer’s “Kitchen Stories” has the same appealing light touch as the Norwegian director’s 1995 debut “Eggs.” New pic also has a similar odd couple dynamic and fascination with difficult yet enduring male relationships. The film, however, appears consistently poised to go deeper but instead hangs back, making it less substantial than it might have been. Yet the sweet-natured story’s gentle humor and poignancy should draw appreciative audiences in festival and television slots.

Set in post-WWII Scandinavia, the comedy takes place during a boom period for home science. Sweden’s Home Research Institute is conducting studies aimed at standardizing the average household kitchen to a factory assembly-line model in order to maximize efficiency and livability. This droll starting point strikes at the heart of the Ikea principle.

A team of 18 “observers” is commissioned to collect data from the homes of confirmed bachelors in the rural town of Landstad, Norway. Each is provided a small caravan trailer to live in and an elevated chair to be parked in their host’s kitchen. The observer sits on a tall chair while he studies and charts the householder’s movement, with as little intrusion and verbal interaction as possible.

Regretful of having signed on as a research subject once the project begins, loner Isak (Joachim Calmeyer) shuts his observer Folke (Tomas Norstrom) outside in the snow. But the single-minded Swede observer persists and eventually gains access to the old man’s house. At first, Isak maintains a cool distance, but, gradually, mutual kindnesses alter the two men’s wordless rapport.

However, cracks appear in the scientific process when another observer starts boozing with his host and when Folke falls ill, leaving Isak to document his own movements. This bending of the rules not only incenses Folke’s by-the-book supervisor (Reine Brynolfsson) but has negative fall-out for Landstad local Grant (Bjorn Floberg), until now Isak’s only companion.

The screenplay by Hamer, with collaboration from Jorgen Bergmark, nicely teases out the element of rebellion against engineered behavioral modes and friendship as a source of surprise and fulfillment. While the director is unable to sustain entirely the buoyant humor of the opening stretch, the film delivers plenty of subtle pleasures, thanks in large part to the unforced performances of its two very appealing leads, playing polar opposites that unexpectedly connect.

Visually, also, Hamer achieves restrained but effective results, orchestrating some amusing images such as the parade of green trailers. Production designer Billy Johansson creates a sharply designed but unfussy early ’50s look, photographed by lenser Philip Ogaard in soft, slightly washed-out retro tones.

Kitchen Stories

Directors Fortnight / Norway-Sweden

Production: A BulBul Film production in co-production with Bob Film Sweden. (International sales: Celluloid Dreams, Paris.) Produced by Bent Hamer. Co-producer, Jorgen Bergmark. Directed by Bent Hamer. Screenplay, Hamer, Jorgen Bergmark.

Crew: Camera (color), Philip Ogaard; editor, Pal Gengenbach; music, Hans Mathisen; production designer, Billy Johansson; costume designer, Karen Fabritius Gram; sound (Dolby Digital), Petter Fladeby; line producer, Arve Figenschow; assistant director, Binne Thoresen. Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (Directors Fortnight), May 15, 2003. Running time: 95 MIN.

With: Isak - Joachim Calmeyer Folke - Tomas Norstrom Grant - Bjorn Floberg Malmberg - Reine BrynolfssonWith: Sverre Anker Ousdal, Leif Andree, Gard B. Eidswold, Lennart Jahkel.

More Film

  • Durban Fest ‘Springs’ for Emerging Filmmakers

    Durban Fest ‘Springs’ for Emerging Filmmakers

    A warmly observed humanist comedy about misguided social conditioning and the redeeming value of friendship and individuality, Bent Hamer’s “Kitchen Stories” has the same appealing light touch as the Norwegian director’s 1995 debut “Eggs.” New pic also has a similar odd couple dynamic and fascination with difficult yet enduring male relationships. The film, however, appears […]

  • South Africa's Jenna Bass on Race,

    South Africa's Jenna Bass Explores Race, Class and Gender in 'High Fantasy'

    A warmly observed humanist comedy about misguided social conditioning and the redeeming value of friendship and individuality, Bent Hamer’s “Kitchen Stories” has the same appealing light touch as the Norwegian director’s 1995 debut “Eggs.” New pic also has a similar odd couple dynamic and fascination with difficult yet enduring male relationships. The film, however, appears […]

  • (L to R) Young Rosie (ALEXA

    'Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again,' 'The Equalizer 2' Eye Debuts Above Forecasts

    A warmly observed humanist comedy about misguided social conditioning and the redeeming value of friendship and individuality, Bent Hamer’s “Kitchen Stories” has the same appealing light touch as the Norwegian director’s 1995 debut “Eggs.” New pic also has a similar odd couple dynamic and fascination with difficult yet enduring male relationships. The film, however, appears […]

  • Durban 2018 Panel on Sexual Harrasment

    For Black Women in South African Film Biz, Equality Still a Struggle

    A warmly observed humanist comedy about misguided social conditioning and the redeeming value of friendship and individuality, Bent Hamer’s “Kitchen Stories” has the same appealing light touch as the Norwegian director’s 1995 debut “Eggs.” New pic also has a similar odd couple dynamic and fascination with difficult yet enduring male relationships. The film, however, appears […]

  • 'Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse' Teases Spider-Ham

    'Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse' Teases Spider-Ham, Other Webspinners

    A warmly observed humanist comedy about misguided social conditioning and the redeeming value of friendship and individuality, Bent Hamer’s “Kitchen Stories” has the same appealing light touch as the Norwegian director’s 1995 debut “Eggs.” New pic also has a similar odd couple dynamic and fascination with difficult yet enduring male relationships. The film, however, appears […]

  • Venom Comic-Con

    'Venom' Creators Promise 'Huge World,' Tease Spider-Man Fight

    A warmly observed humanist comedy about misguided social conditioning and the redeeming value of friendship and individuality, Bent Hamer’s “Kitchen Stories” has the same appealing light touch as the Norwegian director’s 1995 debut “Eggs.” New pic also has a similar odd couple dynamic and fascination with difficult yet enduring male relationships. The film, however, appears […]

  • Bully

    Film News Roundup: Danny Trejo's Dark Comedy 'Bully' Scores Distribution

    A warmly observed humanist comedy about misguided social conditioning and the redeeming value of friendship and individuality, Bent Hamer’s “Kitchen Stories” has the same appealing light touch as the Norwegian director’s 1995 debut “Eggs.” New pic also has a similar odd couple dynamic and fascination with difficult yet enduring male relationships. The film, however, appears […]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content