ZERO KELVIN (Kjaerlighetens Kjoetere)
(director/writer:Hans Petter Moland; screenwriters: Lars Bill Lundholm/from the novel Larsen by Peter Tutein; cinematographer: Philip Øgaard; editor: Einar Egeland; music: Terje Rypdal; cast: Stellan Skasgard (Randbaek), Gard Eidswold (Henrik Larsen), Bjorn Sundquist (Holm), Camilla Martens (Gertrude); Runtime: 113; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Bent Rognlien; Kino International; 1995-Norway-in Norwegian with English subtitles)
“It’s a beautifully photographed slow developing character study that builds to its powerful conclusion after setting all the human elements in place.“
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Norwegian director and co-writer Hans Petter Moland’s (“Aberdeen”) “Zero Kelvin” tells the story of Henrik Larsen (Gard Eidswold), an aspiring impoverished twentysomething poet in Oslo, who leaves his girlfriend Gertrude (Camilla Martens) to spend a year on a trapper-expedition in East Greenland in order to make some good money and gain some worldly insights and write a book about trappers. This “thinking person’s adventure film” was co-written by Lars Bill Lundholm and adapted from the novel Larsen by Peter Tutein. It’s a beautifully photographed slow developing character study that builds to its powerful conclusion after setting all the human elements in place.
It is set in 1925 in a primitive tundra island in Greenland (it was shot on a remote northern Norwegian coastal island). Three men hired by the trading company: Larsen, a scientist named Holm (Bjorn Sundquist), and a former sailor now the station-captain named Randbaek (Stellan Skasgard), are forced to live together in an isolated Arctic cabin fighting the elements and their own demons. In this claustrophobic psychological drama, the foolhardy, violin playing, romantic Larsen finds himself out of his element. The men are under pressure to meet their quota of furs and soon their jangled nerves take a toll from the never ending isolation and the bleakness and the struggle to get the fur pelts. The unworldly poet bears the brunt of the profane foreman Randbaek’s displeasure as the trapper mocks him as a weakling and poisons his mind with how his girlfriend is being unfaithful to him, while the withdrawn and academic Holm ignores him altogether and says little.
In these harsh conditions, things only grow worst among the incompatible threesome. Randbaek is an alcoholic, women-hater (he killed his wife’s lover and never stopped hating women thereafter), who continually goads the poet, stealing his writings and using them to mock him further as their tensions escalate to violence. In the competition for furs, the intellectual is surprisingly ahead of the professional trapper. This causes a scene of betrayal and of the men left to fight for their survival by their own devices.
In this allegorical struggle between the primitive and the civilized natures of man, the inhospitable godlike beautiful landscape stands uninterested in man’s world and suffering. To survive means that Larsen must adjust his thinking, and it concludes with the romantic’s slow conversion from a cultured idealist to a cynic who is not far removed from Randbaek.
REVIEWED ON 2/24/2004 GRADE: B https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/