My local cinema is running its annual film festival. Normally I try to avoid the place at this time because they undoubtedly air a series of crappy French art-house dramas. However this year, flicking through the pamphlet, a particular Scandinavian comedy thriller caught my eye. This was Kraftidioten, a darkly comic, violent, suspenseful and above all highly enjoyable Scandi-noir that I would quite happily rate as one of the best films I’ve seen this year.
The film stars Stellan Skarsgard (remember him? The cardigan and shorts wearing scientist in the Thor films) as Nils, a highly respected snowplow driver and citizen of the year. However his fairly idyllic life is shattered when his son apparently takes a lethal overdose of cocaine. Nils refuses to believe that his son was an addict and sets off on a brutal quest for vengeance against the hilarious vegan gangster known as “the Count”. As Nils works his way up the hierarchy of the gang “the Count” suspects his rivals, the Serbs, are killing off his organization and the scene is set for a bloody gang war. After each death the film presents a somber black screen etched with the unfortunate’s name. This becomes increasingly comic as the body count piles up.
The Count is a hugely funny character as he is besieged on all sides by an angry ex-wife, rival gangsters, assassins and Nils’ own ruthless efficiency. This is counterbalanced by the fact that he is a ruthless murderer who delights in brutal torture. For me he stole every scene he was in and in many ways it was his film as much as Skarsgard’s.
Against him is the leader of the Serbian gang, Papa. His gang of Eastern Europeans offers some of the highlights as they wrestle in the snow and glide about on parachutes all to the entertainment of the audience.
Finally I must mention the superb setting. The snow-clad Norwegian landscape looks amazing, particularly in the brilliant establishing shots as Nils drives through the desolate tundra. This is supported by a pitch perfect soundtrack of lonely electric guitars that further add to this sense of emptiness and the immense futility of Nils’ job.
This offbeat, hugely funny but brutally violent Scandinavian thriller is unusual bit certainly worth seeing if you can find it at any local cinemas.
This is Frontline Armchair signing off.