the fresh films reviews

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Herman (1990)

Erik Gustavson
99 minutes
Petter J. Borgli
Screenwriter (based on his novel):
Lars Saabye Christensen

Cast includes:

Herman Anders Danielsen Lie
Mor Elisabeth Sand ½
Far Bjørn Floberg ½
Ruby Linn Aronsen
Jacobsen Jr. Kai Remlow
Fru Jacobsen Sossen Krogh
Panten Jarl Kulle ½
Tjukken Harald Heide Steen Jr. ½
Bestefar Frank Robert
Tønne Per Jansen ½
Doktor Sverre Bentzen
Zorro Øivind Blunck
Vaskekona Kjersti Holmen
Sykepleier Anne Marit Jacobsen
Raggen Torfinn Nag



This mild-mannered, good-hearted film was Norway's nominee for best foreign language film at the Oscar's in 1991. It is about an 11-year old boy in early 1960s Oslo who, in addition to having problems with fitting in socially, has to deal with the news that he has been diagnosed with alopecia areata – a condition that makes his hair fall off.

Director Erik Gustavson approaches his film in a quiet, unflashy manner. It is nice to watch how, although Herman isn't the most typical kid around, there actually isn't much polarity about him. That he is perceived as an odd-body is largely thanks to him being misunderstood and cornered. His condition emphasises this for us, but that's not what brings the situation on. To subtly catch this distinction and portray the essence of Herman not through remarkable events, but rather through his inability to express himself, his insecurity and his search for an identity, is an achievement not to be underestimated. In this respect, Herman has got qualities reminiscent of Lucas.

Gustavson also gives us a vivid recreation of contemporary Oslo – perhaps the best of its kind in that respect. The many characters Herman encounters all represent a part of a culture that today is partly or completely lost, such as Tjukken – the barber, Jacobsen Jr – the grocery store owner, or Tønne – the teacher. These and other characters underline how much a small European capital has changed during the past 40 years (and counting). They are representatives for social groups that our wealth has transformed, if not removed entirely.

Even though it ranges from brilliant to disappointing, the acting in Herman is among the best of its time in Norwegian film. Only Frank Robert's performance as the grandfather has got the artificial quality that dominated Norwegian films in the 1970s and 1980s. Anders Danielsen Lie is industrious and believable in the title role, whereas most of the numerous cameo performances are satisfactory (Jansen, Heide Steen and Kulle have fun with their parts). Still, the most valuable and genuine moments in Herman come in the scenes between Danielsen Lie and the impressive Bjørn Floberg, who absolutely shines in a handful of takes. These are the moments in which Herman really hits something special, moments that give the film that extra bit of quality. And the fact that these everyday segments are the ones that function the best also shows that, if anything, the film lacks an edge in the narrative. Still, it remains one of the most pleasant and poignant Norwegian films of its era, and the beautiful final scene is its testimony in that respect.



Far (Floberg): "Har'u lyst til å væ'med opp i krana en dag'a, Herman? Kan se helt til Amerika, vet du... Ja, altså ikke helt til Amerika da, men kan se til Nakkholmen."

Copyright © 8.8.2007 Fredrik Gunerius Fevang