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Wednesday, July 25, 2001
Something for everyone under the big blue sea
By KAORI SHOJI
This is my second week in a row writing on a film from Scandinavia, so I'm suffering somewhat from Big Blonde People Overload. Especially since the latest involves apple-cheeked, sturdy-boned youngsters from Denmark who look as though they've never eaten anything but organic food in their lives.
The thing about people with such infinite charm and good looks is that they leave Asians feeling hopelessly scruffy and wizened, fit only for devising ever-smaller laptops and cellphones to peddle to the rest of the world. Sniff.
"Dykkerne" is the name of the movie (English title "Beyond"), and it means "diver" in Danish. The director is Ake Sandgren, winner of many prestigious film awards in Denmark. Interestingly, he is not a member of the Dogma Manifesto gang, a movement spearheaded by fellow Danish director Lars von Trier (of "Dancer in the Dark" fame), which abhors special effects, fancy camerawork, digital graphics, etc. Indeed, Sandgren has no compunctions about using digitalized anything, and in some scenes his only concern seems to be to prove that Danish digitals are as good as America's, any old day of the week.
Indeed, "Dykkerne" is a Hollywood summer movie disguised as a Euro fairy tale, straight from the land of Hans Christian Andersen. Much of the film leaves one wondering why the characters aren't exchanging high-fives and saying to each other, "You were way cool out there, man," then chugging a Diet Coke as the soundtrack switches from Celine Dion to Britney Spears.
The story also subscribes to the "something for everyone" law of American movie marketing, which means that even though "Dykkerne" is an adventure story, it runs parallel with two love stories, the issue of single motherhood, World War II legends and antifascist sympathies. Talk about your smorgasbords.
The story goes like this: Brothers Christian (Robert Hansen), 17, and Ask (Ralf Hollander), 11, decide to spend summer vacation on their grandfather's (Otto Brandenburg) fishing and diving boat, while single, working Mom (Ditte Grabol) carries on with her job as a hospital nurse. Grandpa is a wonderful old man of the sea who is always lecturing on the importance of respect for the water and safe diving. Christian lends only half a ear. His primary concern is to dive as much as he can and maybe get a relationship going with childhood friend Maja (Laura Aagaard), who has matured into a splendid Viking goddess helping out her dad on his noticeably posher boat. Christian is sad that Grandpa can't even afford to get his rig painted and resolves to help out, one way or another.
Christian's first wish is granted when the brothers find a World War II German U-boat at the bottom of the ocean. Some Nazi treasure may be hidden in there, and the pair decide to find out. But another diving crew has been looking for the same thing. Headed by nasty secret-agent type Eric (Baard Owe), this team knows exactly what they're looking for: bio-research capsules used by Nazi doctors to study babies and small children. Who will get into the U-boat first? And what is really inside it?
Admittedly, the crux of the story is interesting, if perhaps a bit antiquated (if the KGB is passe, then Nazis are doubly so, unless they're sporting skinheads). Problem is, the focus tends to wander off in the direction of the Christian/Maja relationship, or Ask being jealous of this relationship, or (this is my favorite) Grandpa hitting it off with a weird old lady known as "Madame Bones" (Jytte Abildstrom), who bears an uncanny resemblance to one of the characters from "Moomin Valley."
Grandpa, by the way, is stunning, what with the deep tan and the fisherman's sweater, skipper cap and briar pipe clenched between shining white teeth. Madame Bones is one of those old ladies who likes to hold seances and can communicate with Danish fairy creatures. She lost most of her family members at sea and now spends her time looking out over the ocean.
I do suppose it's nice that this pair comes together, and it was thoughtful of Sandgren to run their story alongside Christian and Maja's. Like I said, it's not just adventure and adolescent love, see. There's something for everyone.
So if I were a 70-year-old grandfather with a 17-year-old grandson, would I take him to see this? Probably not, as grandson would a) never consent to be seen in public with old man; or b) demand ahuge compensation fee for being out in public with old man. The point is: There is no such thing as a something-for-everyone movie, and grandfathers should never attempt to see anything with 17-year-old grandsons but instead stick to taking wives or weird girlfriends.
Glad to have sorted this out.