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Berlinale Bloggers 2019
Dialogues as short as the Norwegian summers

Jon Ranes
Jon Ranes | Photo (Detail): © 4 1/2 Film

In the movie “Ut og stjæle hester” (Stealing horses) Trond Sander freezes alone through the winter of his life. In an abandoned place in the east of Norway, the 67-year-old suddenly catches up with the past.
 

By Alva Gehrmann

It is November 1999, the turn of the millennium is fast approaching. On an icy night Trond, played by Swedish star actor Stellan Skarsgård, suddenly encounters his neighbour Lars, whom he knows from his youth, in front of his house. The taciturn men are bound together by a fateful summer in 1948, which still shapes their lives today.

The story of those weeks is now told in various flashbacks from the perspective of the young and the older Trond. In the beginning, the 15-year-old spends a carefree time in the family hut. When his father sees that he only half-heartedly cuts the proliferating nettles in front of the property with a scythe, he pulls them out in tufts with his bare hands. “We decide for ourselves when it hurts,” he says to his son. Another day, Trond and a friend steal workhorses. He rides over the fields clinging to the horse's mane until the animal throws him off. Stellan Skarsgård Photo (Ausschnitt): © 4 1/2 Film

Idyllic screen adaptation of the novel

The film “Stealing Horses” is based on the award-winning novel of the same name by the Norwegian writer Per Petterson, who is celebrated for his poetic language. In his homeland, the book is one of the most popular contemporary works, and it has also enjoyed international success.

The film is atmospherically beautifully filmed, but sometimes the summer scenes of the idyllic fjords, forests and rivers come across a bit stereotypical. One thus secretly wishes to have the book at hand in order to compare how Petterson describes nature - and how Tront's inner view is reflected in it. Because most of it remains unspoken, the dialogues are as short as the Norwegian summers.
The silence, however, is interrupted again and again: by dramatic accidents, the felling of trees, field work and the unveiling of two secrets of the beloved father. After this summer, Trond will never see him again. 

The author’s hope

On the sidelines of a reception during the Berlinale, Petterson admits to being relieved that he likes the feature film. “A lot of Norwegians have read my book. I think many viewers will say they like the film too, others might like the novel better,” the writer says. “It's a win-win situation for me.” He hopes that the cinema-goer will feel the same way.
 

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