Director: Hans Peter Moland
Cast: Stellan Skarsgård, Kristofer Hivju, Bruno Ganz
Length: 117 min
Country: Norway, Sweden, Denmark
A story of murder, humour and fatherly love set in the snows of Norway: Placing In Order of Disappearance (Kraftidioten) within a framework of a particular genre is rather difficult. If one expects a traditional action film based on its plot description, they will surely be in for a surprise as the film offers much more than that.
The best way to introduce this film, I find, is to call it a Scandi noir. Whilst maintaining the complex, dark mood found in many examples of this genre, say, the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, it adds a serene sense of optimistic dark humour. The tagline of Hans Peter Moland’s previous film A Somewhat Gentle Man (En Ganske snill mann, also starring the magnificent Stellan Skarsgård) was ‘a dark feel good comedy’, and indeed, In Order of Disappearance showcases a very similar sentiment, one of darkly violent comedy and the possibility of human tenderness.
Having premiered in this year’s Berlinale, In Order of Disappearance tells the story of Nils (Skarsgård), an introverted and hard-working snow plough driver in the depths of pristinely white Norwegian snow; Nils has just won the Citizen of the Year award within his local community and seems to be best at minding his own business, enjoying a quiet life with his wife Gudrun (Hildegun Riise). This idyll is violently interrupted by the death of his son Ingvar (Gard B. Eisvold). Nils doesn’t believe the official version of the story – which is that of an overdose – stating that his son was never a drug addict, and embarks on an exceptionally violent odyssey towards finding the true reasons of his son’s demise.
This journey leads Nils away from the serenity of his daily routine towards a gritty gangster world set in a nameless Norwegian metropolis. Eventually, a full-blown gangster war erupts, featuring Bruno Ganz (if you’ve seen Wim Wenders’s Wings of Desire, you’ll remember this name with a certain fondness) as Papa, a Serbian mafia boss set against the Count, wonderfully portrayed by Norway’s Pål Sverre Hagen. Nils, having started all of this mess, attempts to stage a final showdown; however, it won’t be easy as that.
The Count is a wildly expressive villain; think of Gary Oldman in Besson’s Leon the Professional and replace drugs with an obsession for veganism, contemporary art and hatred towards his wife. Completely politically incorrect, the Count is a joy to watch: move over Godfather, here’s the mafia boss for our times.
Indeed, the film’s cast is a brilliant assemblage of actors, each contributing towards its rich flavour. The three main male performances of the film – Papa, the Count and Nils – complement each other in a variety of ways. Nils is Skarsgård playing his silent, determined Scandinavian card, revealing glimpses of crumbliness under the calm surface. The Count, on the other hand, is a wildly expressive villain; think of Gary Oldman in Besson’s Leon the Professional and replace drugs with an obsession for veganism, contemporary art and hatred towards his wife. Hagen, best known for 2012’s Kon Tiki, shifts from controlled rage to violent outbursts of bullets, hits and swearing. Completely politically incorrect, the Count is a joy to watch: move over Godfather, here’s the mafia boss for our times.
Papa, the last to appear of the trio, is a stereotypical portrayal of an Old World Eastern European mafia boss; loyal, ruthless, he has an immense love for his son and swears to do whatever it takes to avenge him. Also, Papa doesn’t speak any English, in contrast to the members of his gang. Thus there is an interesting dichotomy between the Count and Papa going on: two different mobsters having different ideas of what it means to run a gang, one blatantly excessive in the use of force, and another operating under unquestionable authority – thus no extravagance is really needed. And it is with Papa that the film ends, offering a beautiful glimpse of human connection through the bloody mess and bullets flying all over the place.
In Order of Disappearance demonstrates a quality that is so often associated with Scandinavian cinema, that is, a wonderful mixture of terribly dark humour, masterful playing with certain cinematic clichés and an overbearing sense of irony. If this sounds anything like Roy Andersson, this year’s Golden Lion winner at Venice, you’re absolutely right – Andersson produced this film, and thus can be held partly responsible for its joyfully dark rendition of a secluded Norwegian community. A feast to watch.
Header Image: Paradox Productions