“The cat has tuna twice a day and wants to shit in private. Please respect that. And above all, make damn sure the bastards don’t drive on our paths.” This is Ove’s instruction to daughter-like Parvaneh in his final letter or will to say it officially. “Go ahead, tell him. If you can make someone who drives an Audi understand. Four zeros on the bonnet and a fifth behind the wheel!” is what he says when a woman of his housing threatens to complain about him to the chairman. Hannes Holm adapts A Man called Ove from Fredrik Backman’s homonymous Swedish best-selling novel into celluloid presenting a tragicomic outlook in the final days of Ove and his past reminiscences.
Ove is as serious as possible being a human but there is a musical aura of humor around him. He is grumpy, he is unsocial, he is cross, he is skilled, he is alone and he wants to die; to join his wife in heaven who has died six months earlier. He is in fact very simple; he does not even understand the marketing offers of the retailers. When being forced out of the railways after 43 years of service, with nothing left behind to do, he plans to die. According to the plan he cuts his telephone services, dresses up and tries to hang himself but is interrupted by his new neighbours; a Swedish man, his Iranian wife and their two daughters. He reluctantly helps them settle, lends them his ladder and tools and shrugging-ly accepts Parvaneh’s home-cooked food. He despises the stray cat, the lady’s dog, the lady and every other person he knows, who are alive. He likes the Swedish car manufacturer Saab and loathes all the other makers and the persons who drive those. His numerous attempts to end his life finish in failures due to circumstances and in between those attempts responsibilities creep into his life in the form of Parvaneh’s driving, taking care of her children, of the cat, trying to fight the authorities for letting his friend-cum-rival Rune to stay with his wife, as he is in a state of paralysis. There are also his morning rounds to check the block and maintain the regulations that are enforced there. After the round he visits his wife’s grave, presenting her with flowers and promising her that he is going to join her soon; the only place he seems in peace.
In between the attempts of suicide, are his reminiscences of his father and his pathetic accident, of him meeting Sonja, his would-be wife, their romance and settling down. There is also a flashback of them going to a trip and the accident in which Sonja loses her legs. Ove fights with the world trying to help her secure her place as a teacher and also physically help her by creating a world in which she can be independent as she was before. The film has beautiful moments, visuals, dialogues filled with humour but the masterstroke is the casting of Rolf Lassgard as the grumpy, confident and suicide-philic Ove. He is the heart and soul and mind of the film in every sense of it. A major share of the film’s success lied in his broad shoulders, which he carried responsibly with his more than realistic performance. The film is a comedy with certain pertaining seriousness, a style that is utterly Scandinavian, and a way of life which is planned where nothing is out of place. Hannes Holm approaches the flashbacks in three different ways; one is life passing before death, like the ones in the beginning where Ove is trying to die and in the semi-conscious state sees some fragments of life. In the second method, Ove is experiencing his past life occurring before his eyes as if his current-old self has time travelled many years back to the same location he is in then. And the third is Ove divulging Parvaneh about the tragedy of his and Sonja’s accident. These three kinds of flashbacks are generally not used in the same movie; this explains Ove’s melancholic present self and his longing to return to the times when everything was fine and Sonja was alive and healthy. It also incurs a sense of compassion for him in the minds of the viewers, and the flashbacks are presented and used in a fluid manner, maintaining a healthy pace at all the times.
Gaute Storaas’ main theme has a sense of craving in a forlorn almost lonesome way, mixed with a comic undertone which makes an essential part of the film. The music helps to understand the world of Ove, his longing for death and Sonja, his part old-fashioned values, adherence to rules and his rejection of society. The film is filled with situational irony which is due to the fact that it is adapted from a successful literary work. The film has been shortlisted for the 89th Academy Awards in the foreign films section. Considering the other contenders, it will be difficult for this to win but landing a nomination is nothing extravagant.
Film Score: 76
Director: Hannes Holm Screenplay: Hannes Holm, Fredrik Backman (novel) Cinematography: Goran Hallberg Editing: Fredrik Morheden Music: Gaute Storaas Production Design: Jan Olof Agren Cast: Rolf Lassgard, Bahar Pars, Ida Engvoll