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Kitchen Stories
Kitchen Stories
Actors: Tomas Norström, Joachim Calmeyer, Bjørn Floberg, Reine Brynolfsson, Sverre Anker Ousdal
Director: Bent Hamer
Genres: Indie & Art House, Comedy
PG     2004     1hr 35min

A Swedish researcher strikes up an unlikely friendship with a cranky Norwegian farmer in this "quirky, thoughtful and bittersweet" (Boxoffice) comedy that captured audiences hearts around theworld. Both "warm" (Newsday) a...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Tomas Norström, Joachim Calmeyer, Bjørn Floberg, Reine Brynolfsson, Sverre Anker Ousdal
Director: Bent Hamer
Creators: Philip Øgaard, Bent Hamer, Pål Gengenbach, Arve Figenschow, Jörgen Bergmark
Genres: Indie & Art House, Comedy
Sub-Genres: Indie & Art House, Comedy
Studio: MGM (Video & DVD)
Format: DVD - Color,Widescreen - Closed-captioned,Subtitled
DVD Release Date: 12/14/2004
Release Year: 2004
Run Time: 1hr 35min
Screens: Color,Widescreen
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 2
MPAA Rating: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)
Languages: Norwegian, Swedish
Subtitles: English

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Movie Reviews

Quiet but funny film
audrey | white mtns | 12/18/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Not all humor has to be slapstick. This quiet little Scandinavian film tells a simple story of small-town people doing little things, but if you are open to this type of story, you will be happily entertained.

Folke is an observer for a study that will ultimately be used to design efficient kitchens. He sits in an odd chair not unlike that of a tennis umpire, taking notes about his observee, the unwilling, cantankerous Isak. Isak pulls lots of tricks to get Folke's goat, but Folke seems as unflappable as Isak is intractable -- at least until the incident of the egg.

This is a charming, quiet film. The only extra is the trailer. Subtitled in English."
Sharp satire
Roland E. Zwick | Valencia, Ca USA | 02/14/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)


We humans are, by nature, a thoroughly inquisitive lot. We can't help but want to know what it is that makes everything - including the people around us - "tick." But can that curiosity, which has done so much to enlighten and advance us as a species, also wind up draining all the spontaneity and fun out of life? If everything is catalogued and labeled and put into little boxes, what happens to that sense of mystery that makes life worth living? The Swedish film "Kitchen Stories" is an ingenious little satire about mankind's insatiable propensity to study and analyze every damn thing in life and to subject even our most mundane daily activities to the rigors of scientific enquiry.

It`s the 1950`s and a group of Swedish researchers have descended on Norway to study "the kitchen habits of the single male," a truly pressing concern if ever there was one. The project involves setting up an "observer" in a volunteer's kitchen in order to watch and record the subject`s every move, leading, hopefully, to kitchen designs that will prove more fruitful and productive for the average citizen. The proviso is that there is to be no fraternizing whatsoever between the two parties, otherwise the "objective" nature of the experiment will be ruined. This is truly life as lived under a microscope, and the question early on becomes who will be the first to "crack" under the pressure of this totally unnatural state of affairs, the observer or the observed. And just how meaningful and reliable could information gleaned from such a contrived, unnatural setup be anyway? Given the complexity of human nature, how much can such a study truly tell us about ourselves and what we're really like?

The film focuses on two men who are caught up in the study: Isak, the relatively reluctant subject, and Nilsson, the analyst who takes up residence in Isak's kitchen, perched high above him on a five foot tall chair made especially for the occasion. At first, the air is tense between the two men, for Isak is not shy about showing his obvious resentment of this nonstop intrusion and prying into his daily life. But, after a few days, the mood thaws out and the two men become fast friends, drawn to each other by their common humanity and need for companionship. Soon, they are breaking all the "rules" of the study, sharing food, beverages and conversation with untoward abandon.

Some people may see this film as an allegory of life under a totalitarian regime, with the individual's every move being observed, recorded and monitored by an authoritarian power. I see it more as a simple study in human nature, as two men triumph over a dehumanized institution. Either way, the film does an interesting job showing just how easily the observer can become the observed if he lets his guard down. The film boasts excellent performances from Joachim Calmeyer as Isak, Tomas Norstrom as Nilsson, Bjorn Floberg as Isak's jealous friend, Grant, and Reine Brynolfsson as Nilsson's serious, Nervous Nelly boss who, like Grant, can't abide the intimacy he sees developing between evaluator and subject (albeit for totally different reasons).

"Kitchen Stories" is a quiet, almost muted film in which the characters rarely speak above a whisper, reflecting the somber mood of both the clinical experiment and the stark winter background against which the story takes place. Yet, there is warmth and humor in the relationship between Isak and Nilsson, and a great deal of quirky humor in both the premise and director Bent Hamer's sly execution of it. This is a film for those in search of the unique and the offbeat."
Le til du skrike! (Laugh till you scream!)
Kristen A. Spangler | Cork, Ireland | 11/28/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

"OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOooooh my, this film had me in knots!

Having lived in Norway at one time in my life, I had a strong desire to see this when it turned up at last year's Cork (Ireland) International Film Festival. I try not to miss Scandinavian films when they're on, anyway, but the blurb sounded good, and so I went.

Scandinavian humour is known for being quite black, actually, and is sometimes hard to swallow. There are those who find British humour incomprehensible; they would find Scandinavian humour insurmountable. That is, until they see this film... (You know things will be good when you're laughing hysterically within the first five or ten minutes.)

The story begins with a group of Swedish researchers, who are sent to the cold and frozen wilderness of Norway to observe the daily habits of middle-aged Norwegian bachelors. The premise for this visit is that the researchers are attempting to redesign kitchens for the usage of such characters; the observations will facilitate a more user-friendly remodelling. It isn't too long after the introduction of the 'suits' that the viewer will be rolling on the floor in laughter. This comes about firstly by the inclusion of a bit of rather humorous history: once upon a not-so-long ago, the Swedes drove on the left, and the Norwegians (as they always had done) drove on the right. Consequently, the team of Swedish researchers, fresh from their border crossing into Norway, must suddenly avoid a near head-on collision, which leaves them discombobulated. Viewers familiar with the way the Swedish and the Norwegians are constantly jibing one another will immediately recognise the joke played on a certain group of meatball-lovers!

It only gets better. Folke, one of the observers who is destined to spend the next several months in a ridiculously high observation chair, is instructed to observe Isak, a grumpy old man and not-so-willing participant. A battle of the wills... and WITS... soon ensues. With very little dialogue, the dynamic is set by the actions of each character. Will Folke be forced to end the observation? Or will Isak submit? (And how, incidentally, are the others getting on with their studies?)

You won't believe the outcome.

Incidentally, the audience at the CIFF screening went mad for it! They were breathless with laughter, and often could hardly see through their tears of mirth."
Observing Batchelor Farmers
Robert M. Penna | Albany, NY | 02/04/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)

"For years now, humorist Garrison Keillor has successfully mined the image of the "Norwegian bachelor farmers" who populate the fringes of his fictional Lake Wobegon. Although few of his fans outside the precincts of Minnesota have probably ever actually met a Norwegian bachelor farmer, the vague image is nonetheless strong enough to carry Keillor's jokes and jabs. In "Kitchen Stories," a 2003 film by Bent Hamer, the rest of us finally have the chance to meet such a character, and it is an opportunity not to be missed.

Isak is the farmer in question, a cagey old man who mistakenly volunteers for a 1950s Swedish study of home efficiency. Having already "improved" the domestic efficiency of Scandinavian housewives, the nutty professors of the Swedish Home Research Institute set out to bestow a similar blessing on Norwegian bachelors. Isak is thus assigned to be observed by one Folke, himself a bachelor and a strict pupil of the official methods of the Institute's director.

While an early clash of wills between the observer and the observee set the stage for the film (and offer the early comedic bits and the film's few real laughs) what follows is the real story, a tale of human need that reaches out past conventions, artifice and rules of engagement. Isak slowly overcomes his resentment and obstructionist bent, while Folke's pointless fastidiousness simultaneously unravels. The result is what The Odd Couple might have been had Neil Simon decided to forego the slapstick.

Four subplots underpin the story without distracting from it. Isak's horse, a metaphor for the old man himself, is dying. Grant, Isak's heretofore best friend, is, literally, left out in the cold. Folke's boss, a real company man, desperately tries to hold the inane experiment together in the face of human nature overwhelming "scientific" protocols; and the futility of the whole effort is underscored by the Hugh Hefner antics of the project's absentee director.

The beauty of the story is in its simple portrayal of simple human need. In the clumsy hands of Hollywood, the ample openings for an eventual homosexual twist to the story of these lonely men would no doubt be seized and exploited. But such mercifully never develops and, like 2003's "Cuckoo," emotion and not sex is the story here. Viewers might quibble with the saccharin closing scene, but "Kitchen Stories" is, like its two central characters, a quiet gem. The denizens of Lake Wobegon would be pleased.