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A movie for every day of the year – a good one

26 October

Norway becomes independent, 1905

On this day in 1905, Norway became independent from Sweden. An independent country during the Viking and post-Viking era, Norway’s power declined after 1265, with the Black Death and competition from the North European trading and economic union the Hanseatic League forcing it out of its eminent position. In 1380 it was absorbed into a union with Denmark which stayed in place for four centuries (the country was formally dissolved in 1536, then re-established in 1660, though it continued to recognise itself as being Norwegian, and had standalone institutions and laws). Remarkably, this union was broken in 1814 when Denmark was ordered to cede Norway to Sweden (having been on the losing side in the Napoleonic war). Norway then declared independence, there was a short war with Sweden, followed by union with Sweden. Each country retained its sovereignty, until the Sweden/Norway was peacefully dissolved in 1905, when 99.95% per cent of the population voted for independence. Norway then offered the crown to a Danish prince, Carl, who accepted. Since then Norway has become one of the richest countries in the world, with the second highest GDP per capita in the world after Luxembourg. It is the second wealthiest country in the world and has the largest capital reserve per capita of any nation. It regularly tops the UNDP Human Development Index. Productivity is high, wages are high, it has a substantial welfare state.

Headhunters (2011, dir: Morten Tyldum)

Not just one of the cleanest-looking (thanks to DP John Andreas Andersen) but also one of the slickest films of recent years begins with a shot of a man called Roger (Aksel Hennie) taking a shower in his spare, beautiful, high end apartment and obsessing about the fact that he’s not as tall as his statuesque, gorgeous partner (Synnøve Macody Lund). He has the perfect life, though he’s not who he says he is, and he’s not as rich as his champagne lifestyle requires. An art thief who is posing as a headhunter, outwardly sorted, inwardly insecure, Roger’s life is bowled a googly when he discovers his wife is possibly banging the guy (also handsome, but significantly taller) whose Rubens Roger is just about to steal. Onto this foundation of beauty, thievery and jealousy is built a remarkable cat-and-mouse thriller based on a Jo Nesbø story, with Roger ending up being tracked by Stolen Rubens Guy (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, of Game of Thrones) – ex-army, a millionaire, with the moves, technology and the killer attitude of a top level spook. Our guy Roger is smart but can he outwit, outrun, outgun a guy who is essentially James Bond? And what to do about the wife? And his own inferiority complex? Headhunters is a top class chase thriller driven by snappy psychological motivation, presented with all the gloss and referencing quite a few of the tropes of Hitchcock – the duplicitous blonde, the elaborate set piece, the dark sense of humour, the innocent man on the run (yes, Roger isn’t that innocent, but watching the headhunter becoming the headhunted is something Hitchcock would have understood). Beautifully cast and played, this is also a film that doesn’t insult the intelligence. Take the scene in which Roger has been temporarily arrested and is in being taken in by the police when the car they are all in is rammed off the road, over a cliff edge. Roger is the only one who survives, thanks to the two cops he was sandwiched between – their blubber has literally absorbed the shock of the fall. A lesser film would have explained it. Not Headhunters. It lets us work it out, and while we’re doing that, Roger is already on the run again, ducking as he weaves. One of the best Euro-thrillers of recent years.

Why Watch?

  • Morten Tyldum’s eye for crisp Scando beauty
  • The US remake won’t touch it for style
  • Dark dark humour
  • The best “immersion in shit” scene ever committed to film

Headhunters – at Amazon

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© Steve Morrissey 2013

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