Sunday, November 6, 2016

A Man Called Ove (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

A Man Called Ove

For those that loved "The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared" and "Life Is Beautiful," a new film by Hannes Holm "A Man Called Ove" will satisfy your sweet tooth. The film is based on the novel by Fredrik Backman.

An older Swedish engineer Ove (Rolf Lassgård) is a recent widower. He loves his wife with a passion and misses her dearly to the point of keeping her room immaculate as she last left it. But Ove's daily life is one of gray ennui. His life is in mono. Ove feels the absence of his wife's red shoes. Those that know this man try to socialize with him, but Ove will not be part of it.

He steels himself to attempt suicide, and goes to elaborate detail to craft his end perfectly. He tries hanging, exhaust poisoning and a shotgun and experiences a mortem interruptus each and every time either by a knock or the sight of a passerby.

To offset his uges, Ove befriends a very expressive cat which reminds one of an Edward Gorey illustration. The sight of this cat is a scene-stealer, perfecty positioned in the aftermath of Ove's vexing hijinks. Each attempt brings memories of his wife Sonja (Ida Ingvall) and Ove watches each memory vignette in the form of a stage play where he takes the form of his younger self (Filip Berg). These sequences have the charming flavor of early Woody Allen. Light, seriocomic and always affecting, the segments offer a good balance to Ove's obsessions with termination which border on the Hitchcockian.

The pains that Ove takes to achieve his desired end provide the best of the film precisely because they are without maudlin overdone feelings. The scenes simply reveal Ove as a well-rounded person.  At the end of one suicidal interlude, there is a mailbox drama that occurs outside Ove's door. He reluctantly agrees to help his newlywed neighbor Parveneh (Bahar Pars) who is a parallel to Sonja. Both characters transfix you, candy for the eyes and the spirit.

A friendship ensues.

Though the story has its "Forrest Gump" flavor in Ove's passive sentiments (mostly in contained in the last third) the film excels in keeping us guessing, oscillating between Ove's fatal preoccupations which come upon him like a trance and his memories which unfold like Spielberg cliffhangers: colorful, warm and adventurous.

We truly get a deep and intimate look at this man Ove. Far from a sluggish curmugeon, he is a man of cerebral feeling  capable of romantic spontaniety and sudden drive. It is only the film's last fairy tale note that is a little too sugary and sweet. One might want for a little more complexity.

But this is a slight reservation. The complete whole of "A Man Called Ove" is a vivid and rolling love story, satifying not least for its dark humor that never stoops or panders.

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