Gone With the Woman



Hollywood Film Festival

Scandinavian filmmakers are known for making somber, heavy opuses drenched in angst and metaphysical meditations, like the great Swedish director Ingmar Bergman. But the truth is there has always been another strain of Scandinavian films, whimsical comedies like "Kitchen Stories" and the Oscar-nominated "Elling," directed by Norwegian filmmaker Petter Naess.

Naess' new film "Gone With the Woman" is in much the same sly comic mode. It has enough appealing touches to score on the festival circuit, though it's a little too mild and precious to capture any significant audience in American theaters. The film is Norway's official submission for this year's foreign-language Oscar.

"Woman" begins with a gob of narration by the sad-sack hero (Trond Fausa Aurvag) describing the strange onset of his romance with Marianne (Marian Saastad Ottesen), who moves in with him despite his indifference. After a series of misadventures, the hero (who is never named) announces, "I decided to fall head over heels in love with her. I would start in the morning."

The course of true love never did run smooth, and after the hero meets an enticing new flame during a whirlwind trip to Paris, and after Marianne takes up with a lover of her own, matters finally wind their tortuous way to the right romantic conclusion.

The story progresses in fits and starts, too often propelled by verbose narration. But "Woman" benefits from an appealing cast. Aurvag has an off-center charm; he makes us feel for the character's befuddlement. Ottesen is alternately endearing and maddening, and Louise Monot is lovely as the hero's Parisian amour. Peter Stormare provides some of the best moments as the hero's no-nonsense swimming buddy and confidant; the swimming pool and sauna scenes are among the movie's brightest comic interludes.

Naess has unmistakable visual talent, and there are striking images, alternately ironic and idyllic, throughout the movie. There's even a deft bit of animation marking one of the key transitional sequences. Technical credits are strong, and the use of music is inventive. But the whimsy, which might appeal to lovers of films like the cloying "Amelie," does get a bit thick. Despite its likable cast and inventive visuals, the film desperately needs a few bold laughs in addition to its mild chuckles.

Monster Film
SF Norge, Guttorm Pettersom and Norsk Filmstudio
Director: Petter Naess
Screenwriters: Johan Bogaeus, Petter Naess
Based on the novel by: Erlend Lee
Producer: Olav Oen
Director of photography: Marius Johansen Hansen
Art director: Bettina Schroeteler
Music: Aslak Hartberg
Costume designer: Karen Fabritius Gram
Editor: Inge-Lise Langfeldt
Hero: Trond Fausa Aurvag
Marianne: Marian Saastad Ottesen
Glenn: Peter Stormare
Mirlinda: Louise Monot
Lollik: Trude Bjercke Strom
Tor: Henrik Mestad
Nidar-Bergene: Anna Gutto
Oberst: Sten Ljunggren
Running time -- 92 minutes
No MPAA rating