Sixth Report | Fantasia 2015

børning 75Børning just turned out to be a disappointment, content to settle for ordinary when I was hoping for more.




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I had great hopes for Børning, a Norwegian film about a road race up the Norwegian coastline (which would in reality be both illegal and ridiculously dangerous, as a title card warns, so don’t even think about trying it yourself). First of all, it’s all about a road trip, one of my favorite premises for a film. Second, it’s directed by Hallvard Braein, who also did Trollhunter (a late but excellent contribution to the found-footage genre). Third, it stars Anders Baasmo Christiansen (Herman Watzinger in Kon-Tiki) as the central character, Roy, a gearhead who hasn’t quite grown up yet (he’d probably say he’s resisting the world’s efforts to make him conform). Add in that dry Scandinavian sense of humor, some of the most beautiful scenery in the world, and a story that has an obvious source of momentum toward a clearly-defined goal—what’s not to like?

Well, that’s why you have to actually watch the films and not just judge them on their publicity materials. In truth, I wouldn’t say I actively disliked Børning (the title means “Burning,” as in “burning up the road”). It just turned out to be a disappointment, content to settle for ordinary when I was hoping for more.

Christiansen is charming as a guy who enjoys beautiful women and fast cars, and is never one to turn down a challenge on the road (resulting in quite a few speeding tickets, which he apparently manages to pay thanks to his income from an auto shop). One of his previous relationships resulted in a daughter, Nina (Ida Husøy), who is a bit of a gearhead herself, and also more mature than her father. There are other stock characters, including an obnoxious rival to Roy (Trond Halbo) who likes to show off his drifting skills, two beautiful babes who are also racers, and an old guy who says he’s dying from a disease no one else has heard of.

Roy does his best to ignore Nina, who’s been dropped off to spend some time with her father, but of course you know they’re going to end up in the car together, racing from Oslo to the North Cape. To add a little more conflict, a humorless policeman (Henrik Mestad) goes into Inspector Javert mode and makes it his personal cause to shut the race down, setting up roadblocks and pursuing the racers by helicopter. In response, the boys (and girls) of the road find ways to thwart his efforts, including one trick involving farm equipment and several stunts that defy the laws of gravity. You have to take it as good fun, but I would have enjoyed this movie more if the director had tried a little harder.

Haruko’s Paranormal Laboratory, written and directed by Lisa Takeba, is another film that is interesting enough to watch, given the right circumstances (like having a slot free at a festival), but it’s far from great. Haruko (Moeka Nozaki) is a bit of a weirdo and a loner, interested in the paranormal but largely content to lounge at home in front of her television, making smart-ass remarks in response to the absurdities on the screen. Little does she known that her remarks are being tallied (an on-screen counter clues the audience in to this), and when they reach 10,000, the television set transforms into a guy (Aoi Nakamura) with a TV for a head, who starts yelling back at her.

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Mr. TV is quite a catch, apart from that little problem about his rectangular head: he’s handsome, smart (speaks 12 languages), and quickly becomes a national celebrity. Not surprisingly, he and Haruko develop a relationship, but the film is really more a string of gags and skits than it is a developed plot, and it’s that characteristic that prevents it from being more than just an average film to watch. I laughed quite a few times during the film (as did other members of the sold-out audience), but a day later I can hardly remember any of the gags, or in fact much of anything else that happened on screen. This is a quirky film that takes shots at many Japanese obsessions (including cosplay), but never in a mean way. It is content to hop from one incident to another, aiming to charm you moment by moment rather than building toward a conventional climax and resolution. | Sarah Boslaugh

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