I Am Dina (2002)
With a 144 million NOK budget, Gérard Depardieu and Christopher Eccleston brought to the west coast of Norway for filming, and an all-star Scandinavian cast in other roles, the adaptation of Herbjørg Wassmo's acclaimed novel "Dina's Book" created grandiose aspirations. And there is little doubt that the filmmakers' level of ambition - both artistically and commercially - matched these aspirations. At times, one can argue that these sky-high ambitions are I Am Dina's worst enemy, because the grandeur of the narrative presentation and the often bloated dialogue and voice-over is far too much too handle for a dizzy cast, who have more than enough with concentrating on their English diction.
Everything works fine in the film's first part, when the talented Amanda Jean Kvakland makes Dina into a beguiling, damaged enigma who we can relate to and see the ambiguity in. Her interplay with Søren Sætter-Larssen as Lorch and Bjørn Floberg as the father has powerful potential (with an underlying eroticism seeping through the former relationship), and Kvakland's good command of the English language only serves to emphasize Maria Bonnevie's shortcomings once she takes over the duty. As played by Bonnevie, Dina is a wild, unlikable and often senseless character. It is hard to feel her inner dichotomy (torn between childlike perception of society and her strong independence and occultism) except through primal screams, turgid narration and forced overacting. We're rarely awed by Dina's feminism and free-spirited being - we're mostly baffled by her irrationality and banality.
While Bonnevie goes off in every direction in the lead, Danish director Ole Bornedal (Nattevagten) loses control over the film's tone and direction. After a fairly effective subplot involving Gérard Depardieu, the story is presented in an increasingly campy manner, with death, occultism, thieves and spies appearing as if from an adolescent spook story. The drama becomes heavily melodramatic, and any thematic relevance the film might have had early on, is gone with the wind. We also get little help from the cinematography, which is about as passive and seclusive as can be when filming on the Norwegian west coast. As the ending approaches, one might ask what exactly the filmmakers were trying to accomplish. I doubt Herbjørg Wassmo will feel they were successful.