Hawaii, Oslo (2004)
For a long time, the Norwegian film business has been reluctant or unable to make movies that are emotionally challenging. Most of the dramatic Norwegian successes of the past ten years have been poignant social satires viewed from a distance (Budbringeren, Den brysomme mannen), but with Hawaii, Oslo, director Erik Poppe combines courage and skill and makes the best Norwegian film in years. With an ensemble cast and quiltwork storytelling, Poppe's film is in the vein of work from the likes of P. T. Anderson or Todd Solondz. It is a film made with artistic and technical flair, but also with an absolutely delicate sense of visual. I have rarely seen Oslo look more vibrantly beautiful than in this movie. What a treat this must be for Lillebjørn Nilsen.
The acting from the ensemble cast is brilliant. Stig Henrik Hoff nearly repeats his role from Den som frykter ulven, and does it marvellously. Trond Espen Seim is magnetic in the enigmatic lead, and there are strong performances from Jan Gunnar Røise, Petronella Barker and Axel Hennie. I'm also glad that Norwegian filmmakers finally have been able to cast talented child performers, because the scenes involving Røsler and Hiis are absolutely crucial for the film's dramatic effect. And this is perhaps where Hawaii, Oslo is at its best; depicting layered, authentic people in different kinds of interaction and situations where the keyword is desperation and frustration. And screenwriter Harald Rosenløw-Eeg's payoff is beautiful and harrowing at the same time. A highly recommended film.