2001, Movie, R, 89 mins


Norway's highest grossing film is a winning "Odd Couple" buddy comedy with an interesting twist: Felix and Oscar's Norse counterparts are both outpatients from a state-run mental health facility. Deeply neurotic, 40-year-old fussbudget Elling (Per Christian Ellefsen), who has never learned to deal with the frightening realities of the outside world, is sent to the home after his mother's death. Elling's roommate at the facility is Kjell Bjarne (Sven Nordin), a lumbering, gentle giant of a man with two things on his mind: food and sex, despite the fact that he's still a virgin at the age of 40. After two years of peaceful cohabitation, during which Elling regales Kjell Bjarne with entirely fictitious tales of his own sexual exploits and obsessively rereads the biography of his idol, former prime minister Gro Harlem Brundtland, the unthinkable happens: Elling and Kjell Bjarne are deemed fit to rejoin the world at large. Under the watchful eye of their social worker, Frank Asli (Jørgen Langhelle), they're set up in a state-funded apartment in Oslo. For the first time in their lives, they're expected to take care of themselves, but even the smallest tasks — like leaving the apartment or answering the phone — prove to be terrifying prospects. As Elling and Kjell Bjarne become accustomed to life on their own, their unlikely but deep-rooted friendship is strained. Heartbroken when Kjell Bjarne falls in love with their troubled upstairs neighbor (Marit Pia Jacobsen), Elling soon discovers his calling: underground poet. Based on a popular series of stories by the Norwegian novelist Ingvar Ambjørnsen, this warm, episodic film from director Petter Naess was first performed as a play before being opened up for the screen by Axel Hellstenuis, a former egg-salesman who has adapted several of Ambjørnsen's books for the stage. The film is filled with humorous observations about the general absurdity of modern life as seen through the eyes of outsiders, but deftly manages to avoid many of the condescending stereotypes that so often plague films dealing with the mentally ill. leave a comment --Ken Fox

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