‘Elling’ brings unique look to friendship

Jon Carcio

As a unique Norwegian installment in this spring’s Cultural Film Series, Petter Næss’s “Elling” follows the emotionally moving yet light-hearted comedic journey of two men who form an improbable bond after meeting at a mental institution.

The 40-year-old title character, who was unrelentingly sheltered by his mother, is unable to fend for himself upon her death.

Once arriving at a psychiatric hospital, he encounters his lumbering, sex-starved roommate, Kjell. After two years of improvement in both men, they are released on a probationary basis to live together in a government-funded apartment in Oslo.

Here they find that their conversion to independence is by no means painless. Relatively simple tasks such as grocery shopping or maneuvering the path to a restaurant’s bathroom become formidable hurdles.

Through their dependence on each other and the gradual realization that they cannot make their extraordinary lives normal, restless Elling and excitable Kjell humorously learn that none of their challenges are impossible to conquer.

Based on Ingvar Ambjornsen’s book “Blood Brothers” and adapted from a stage play with the same director and two lead actors, “Elling” has become one of Norway’s most popular contemporary films. However, its success was, and continues to be, recognized outside of Scandinavia.

The film garnered a Youth Jury Award and a Best New Director Award for Næss at the 2001 San Sebastian Film Festival as well as an Academy Award Nomination for Best Foreign Language Film that same year.

Trigger Street Productions, owned by two-time Oscar winner Kevin Spacey, has bought the rights to bring an American version of “Elling” to the big screen.

Næss’s ability to present the struggles of outsiders in society will be showcased once again in 2004 with “Mozart and the Whale,” based on the true story of a couple connected by their mutual autism.

He also has reportedly signed on to direct “Earthbound,” a film about a woman who seems to have it all when she is unexpectedly diagnosed with cancer. These projects will be Næss’s first ventures in American cinema.

“Elling” will be shown four times in the Connelly Center Cinema: Saturday at 7 p.m., Sunday at 3:30 and 7 p.m. and Monday, Feb. 2 at 7 p.m. Admission is $3 for students with I.D. and $4 for all others. Mark Mussari of Villanova’s Core Humanities Program will introduce the Monday night screening in addition to leading a discussion entitled “The Odd Couple on Lithium” after the conclusion of the film.

For more information, call the Communication Department at x9-4750 on weekdays between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., or see the CFS webpage, www.culturalfilms.villanova.edu.