I’ve mentioned in prior reviews, where I’ve ended the film without any notes taken for it, that there is generally two reasons that this happens: that either the film is so engrossing that my mind doesn’t bother to pick out details individually for critique, or the film is so bland and featureless that trying to come up with anything is an experience in futility. Normally, when this happens, it’s been the latter of the two. Well now, let’s take a look at an example of a film that fits squarely into the former. Zero Kelvin, directed by Hans Petter Moland, is a Norwegian film that stars now-recognizable character actor Stellan Skarsgard, as well as two other Norse actors, in an asexual menage a trois set in one of the most inhospitable landscapes on Earth.
Henrik Larsen is a poet living in 1920s Oslo with his girlfriend, whom he hopes to be engaged to before he leaves on a year-long expedition as a fur trapper and hunter in Greenland. He arrives and meets his two fellow trappers; Randbaek (Skarsgard), a surly and gruff animal of a man, and Holm, a scientist and friend of Randbaek. Pretty much instantly, Larsen and Randbaek begin to clash, and the film spends the year with these three men exploring the differences and similarities in their characters, and how these men try and survive each other more than anything. What immediately makes this stand apart from all the other films that explore the relationship between two opposing personalities is that here, there is a third person present. Holm acts as a sort of mediator between the two opposites, and in a way, he is a stand-in for us the audience; that is, until the film decides to remove Holm from the situation, and naturally, that’s when things really get to a head. The performances are the main draw here, and each of the three men brings a different set of skills to the table for their characters. Skarsgard is, to be expected, the scene-stealer, but Gard Eidsvold, who plays Larsen, more than handles his own against Skarsgard’s overbearing and antagonistic performance. The film really wouldn’t have worked in the slightest if these two roles had been miscast, and fortunately, they are not. The other main draw is the absolutely stark, bleak, and hypnotic cinematography, courtesy of the harsh Arctic landscape. There’s something fascinating about the frozen tundra, at least to me, and setting the conflict of the three men in almost any other setting would have detracted from the experience, or provided no experience whatsoever.
There is a heck of a lot to like about this one, and very little against it. The only cons I can really think of, depending on your taste in films, is that there isn’t really a plotline, other than the clashing between the three main stars, so if you’re expecting a gripping story, you might walk away from this one wondering why you spent the time on it. I, on the other hand, didn’t begrudge the running time in the slightest, and indeed, when the film seemed to be wrapping up, I was pleased to find there was still a good 15-20 minutes before the actual denouement; almost like a bonus helping of a really good meal. This is a pretty easy one to recommend, though it might be difficult to find, but this one might very well be worth the effort, should you have the inclination for it.
Arbitrary Rating: 8/10