With Thanksgiving in our rear view mirrors and Christmas rapidly approaching, ’tis the season to celebrate friends, family and, of course, food. From turkey, stuffing and mashed potatoes to the Christmas ham, happily (or perhaps, begrudgingly) cooking for hours upon hours in the kitchen seems to be he general norm for households everywhere this time of year.
Now, not too many movies focus their central theme on the busiest room in the house, but this quirky and warm picture from Norway certainly does.
“Kitchen Stories” is my DVD Gem of the Week.
“Kitchen Stories” (2003) 5 / 5 stars – Director Bent Hamer’s oddball import is a joy to watch and as fresh as a breath of crisp Norwegian air.
It’s just after WWII, and peacetime finally rules the day throughout Europe.
Without needing to spend energy on the war any longer, governments, companies and the people themselves can now focus on rebuilding their lives.
Sweden’s Home Research Institute soon garnered a well-established reputation as a technological leader in improving efficiencies in the home.
With inventions such as a stainless steel potato peeler for left-handed and right-handed homemakers alike, and a dish dry rack that will make one spring into cartwheels, the Home Research Institute ingeniously marries science with the suburban household.
Wanting to branch out, the HFI (yes, it’s the HFI, not HRI) wishes to understand the habits of Norwegian single men in the kitchen in order to improve their collective cooking experience too.
So a number of HFI market research assistants drive across the border from Sweden to Norway to study various single men.
Ask any woman the average single guy’s skills in the kitchen, and she will probably burst into laughter.
For Isak (Joachim Calmeyer), and elderly hermit with three days of beard growth on any given day of the week, he rarely spends anytime utilizing his culinary talents.
This makes Folke’s (Tomas Norstrom), a HFI observer, job very difficult, as Hamer wisely provides a very narrow and isolated environment in the cold Norwegian winter for these two actors to work.
The bitter cold becomes another character in this play.
When they leave the kitchen for the great outdoors, the snow crunches beneath their feet and steam pours from their mouths.
This third main player adds another level of discomfort to an already awkward situation.
Will the silence between the two men thaw into any sort of communication?
If Folke wants to keep his job, he should just keep quiet and monitor the activities in Isak’s kitchen in silence.
The problem is humanity might get in the way.
Hamer’s wonderful and completely original picture surprises with its small warm gestures and its creative props that add a bold richness to a unique movie experience.
Grab yourself a space heater, a blanket and a hot cup of coffee, and curl up with this quiet slice of life.
“Kitchen Stories” is rated PG.
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