A self-proclaimed laboratory experiment


Danish director Lars von Trier has always been known as something of a


Director Alexander Rogoxhkin's humanist chamber drama is set in the Wilds of northern Finland at the tail-end of World War Two. Veikko (Ville HaapasaIOi. a young Finnish sniper. has been left by the Germans chained to a rock and dressed in an SS uniform an obvious target for the advancing RtiSSian forces. HaVing managed to break free from his shackles. the sharpshooter chances on the farm of a resetirceful Lapp woman Anni iAnni- Kristiina Jussoi. who is sheltering lvan lVictOr Bychkovi. a wounded Russian officer accused of anti-Sowet activities.

None of these three characters can speak any of the others' languages the audience has the benefit of subtitles paying the way for all manner of cultural understandings. Furthering complicating matters is the fact that Anni has not seen her husband for four years and has a hearty sexual appetite. lts anti-war sentiments may not be

Humanist chamber drama

particularly sophisticated. but The Cuckoo is still an evocativer shot and decently acted work which pays a warm tribute to the values. rituals and traditions of Lapp Culture. (Tom Dawsoni I Film/rouse. Edinburgh from Fri 79 Dec. GFT. Glasgow from Fri 2 Jan.

troublesome trickster, yet the man behind the Dogme 95 movement has never seemed as wilfully perverse as in this fascinating documentary. Approaching fellow countryman and filmmaker Jorgen Leth - famous for his 1967 film The Perfect Human - von Trier proposes a unique experiment: Leth must remake his famous short five times over, each time submitting to five conditions or ‘obstructions’ that von Trier will arbitrarily select. The aim, for von Trier at least, is to turn Leth’s ‘little gem’ into ‘a piece of crap’. Revelling in his sadistic power, von Trier dreams up a series of demands to make Leth’s life a misery, dispatching him from Haiti to Bombay’s red light district, forcing him to work with animation (after both directors profess their hatred of the form), making him play the lead role himself, and demanding that no shot is any more than 12 frames long. Unsurprisingly, Leth becomes increasingly harassed and distressed, yet much to his master’s disappointment, he continues to turn in films that are

anything but ‘crap’.

An engrossing cross between a reality TV game show, a therapy session and a self-proclaimed ‘laboratory experiment’, The Five Obstructions proves a rewarding excursion into von Trier’s understanding of artistry. What it ultimately confirms is the way in which this mercurial joker believes not simply in breaking rules, but using such ‘obstructions’ as a source of inspiration, working against the grain to create new and original cinematic

forms. (Jamie Russell) I Film/rouse. Edinburgh from Fri 2 Jan.


A team of Swedish seientists are dispatched to rural Norway in the early 19508 to carry out a research prOJeCI into the kitchen rOutines of confirmed bachelors. One of the boffins is the middle-aged Folke iTomas Norstromi. who has been aSSigned to monitor the habits of a recluswe elderly farmer Isak (Joachim Calmeyeri. Any fraternisation between observer and participant is strictly frowned upon. yet over time these two reticent men find their roles reversing. To the dismay of Folke's by- the-book boss Malmberg (Reine Brynolfsson) and lsak's troubled neigthur Grant (Bjorn Flobergi they develop an unexpectedly Significant relationship.

Nominated as Nerway's 2004 Oscar candidate. this bitter-sweet tale from writer-directOr Bent Hamer makes for a shrewdly observed fable about our need for friendship and emotional connection. in which human feelings get in the way of a supposedly neutral scientific investigation. Eschewnig melodrama. Hamer proves himself a patient and

36 THE LIST 11 Dec 90(3'3» 8 Jan 71%).:

Bachelors and boffins

shrewd storyteller and shows a strong awareness of the space within a frame whether filming in Isak's kitchen where the umpire-style observer's chair is located. or in Foike's cramped. egg- shaped caravan. Richly photographed and infused With plenty of deadpan Visual humour. this impressively crafted film never patronises its characters. moving our emotions With a quiet assurance. (Tom Dawson;

I Selected release from Fri 2 Jan.


Simultaneously developed by its writer-director Simon Pummell as a film, a website ii.v\.vw.l)odysong.coini and a gallery installation. Body/song pays tribute to the various stages of the human life cycle. Pummell and his team raided the celluloid. video and telewsion archives from the last 100 years and also drew on home moVies to weave together this dense and sometimes i.vonder-in(lucing montage. which is accompanied by an epic score from Radiohead guitarist Johnny Greenwood. In highlighting the rituals. celebrations and initiations that take place in societies all around the world. Bodysong suggests that it's our most personal experiences that affirm our common humanity. (Tom Dawsoni

I Out now on selected release.

Rituals, celebrations and initiations


The only reason to watch this minstrel show is to see Beyonce Knowles' sweat box rendition of the song 'Fever'. Darrin Hill (Cuba Gooding Jri is a New York advertising executive who gets sacked from his Job for being a pathological liar. Devoid of an income. he latches onto the get rich quick scheme of travelling down to the small Southern home town of a relatwe to collect an overdue inheritance. The only catch is that to qualify for the money he must coach the terrible local gospel choir up in to the regional finals.

The ensuing life lesson drama has all the spice of a bowl of oats. Knowles preens and emotes ibadlyi in the role of Lilly. an unmarried mother spurned by the church in good ‘ole southern Baptist tradition. Even this cliched plot thread is spooned to us in the most schmalt/y. user-friendly way possible. The main reason for the existence of this MTV—funded iOZIfIOSS-JOFRCF seems to be to not offend. and yet the film still manages to reSurrect every black stereotype imaginable: ‘look at the all singing. all dancing. God bothering. scaredy ca shoe polish faces. mummy'. (Kaleem Aftab)

I General release from Fri 72 Dec.

Minstrel show