Saturday, August 1, 2020

Movie with Abe: Out Stealing Horses

Out Stealing Horses
Directed by Hans Petter Moland
Released August 7, 2020 (VOD)

Formative moments in a person’s childhood often don’t resonate as quite so significant until much later in that person’s life when all of their effects and consequences can be more clearly seen and analyzed. It’s a frequent cinematic device to begin a story with a lonesome adult character reflecting back upon how they have reached the space they inhabit at that moment in time, with long-suppressed memories and notions bubbling to the surface as the result of a catalytic conversation or reunion, ready to lend even more meaning to that which set them on this particular path.

In 1999, Trond (Stellan Skarsgård) moves to a quiet country home in Norway. When he meets his neighbor (Bjørn Floberg), he is surprised to recognize him as Lars, a childhood friend he hasn’t seen for years. As the two begin spending more time together, Trond begins to remember the events that, half a century earlier, left a permanent mark on him. As he tries to move forward with his life, Trond is unable to escape the haunting experiences that come flooding back to him, buried for many years under other more pleasant thoughts yet still inescapably influential.

This is a film that slowly unfurls its mystery, finding Trond living in isolation and surrounded by the overwhelming white of snow. The flashbacks to his younger years are more vibrant, filled with people who bring out a certain energy in him. The two time periods seem so different not only because of the technology featured, but also because of the mindset with which Trond approaches the world. What takes place between those scenes long ago and the present charts a melancholy and often tragic path, one that guides the film’s tone, which is far from optimistic.

Skarsgård is a recognizable international presence, most recently seen on HBO in “Chernobyl.” He commands a certain subtle gravitas when seen on screen, and he’s supported well by a cast that portrays the younger characters and the adults in their lives. This film, which was Norway’s submission for the Best International Feature Oscar last year, is haunting in its look at a lost life that could have been, but any true sense of urgency is lost in this presentation, which plays out as if in slow motion. It’s an intense and powerful story enhanced by the performances within it, but it doesn’t feel as rich or rewarding as other recent foreign films that begin from similarly nostalgic points of mystery.


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