Wednesday, June 12, 2024


Isabella Eklöf: Kalak ( DK 2023). Trying to come terms with his trauma, Jan (Emil Johnsen) resorts to the indigenous face masks of indigenous Greenland.

DIRECTOR: Isabella Eklöf
COUNTRY: Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Netherlands, Finland
YEAR: 2023
DURATION: 120 min
LANGUAGES: Danish, Greenlandic, English, subtitled in Finnish
CATEGORY: Gems of New Cinema, Puhuttu tai tekstitetty suomeksi
Viewed at Lapinsuu, Sodankylä, Midnight Sun Film Festival (MSFF), 12 June 2024

Timo Malmi (MSFF 2024): " Kalak, directed by Swedish filmmaker Isabella Eklöf as a Nordic co-production in Greenland, opens with a startling scene: an older man is sexually abusing a sleeping young man. But this is not sensationalist doom and gloom; instead, the effortlessly talented narrator sympathetically follows the adult life of Jan, who flees Copenhagen with his family to Greenland at the turn of the millennium, traumatised by a difficult relationship with his father. "

" As Kalak is based on an autobiographical novel by Kim Leine, who also contributed to the screenplay, even the most intense phases of the film can be expected to have counterparts in reality. Eklöf deals with things with honest frankness, but also with succinct economy: how the smiling Jan is in the grip of manic sexual polygamy fuelled by drug abuse, which his tolerant wife and mother of two (Asta Kamma August) accepts – even though she is not aware of the dark side of his relationship with his father. "

" “Kalak” means “dirty Greenlander,” referring to both the positive and negative aspects of the adaptation process. In the film, relationships with the Indigenous population reflect Danish colonialism. Nadim Carlsen’s camera beautifully captures the barren atmosphere of the island, and Norwegian Emil Johnsen is a real find in the conflicted role of the boyish Jan. " Timo Malmi

AA: Isabella Eklöf has an assured touch with the tough subject-matter of Kalak. 

It is the tragedy of Jan (Emil Johnsen) coming to terms with the legacy of his pedophilic and incestuous father. Now in a terminal phase of cancer, the father Ole (Søren Hellerup) is jovial and unrepentant, celebrating his licentious lifestyle to the end. Jan's family has moved / escaped to Greenland, but in the finale they return to Copenhagen.

The world unfolds in a mode of contemporary realism / naturalism, but the theme dates back to ancient tragedy and Sophocles.

Everybody in Jan's circle suffers collateral damage: his wife, his children, his colleagues at the hospital where he works, the partners in his serial polygamy. Like his father, Jan in his relationships seems to have a void where conscience should exist. At the hospital Jan has access to drugs, and he becomes a reckless addict.

Greenland dogs can be dangerous. Jan's daughter becomes horribly savaged by one. His wife and children fly back to Copenhagen and its surgical experts. When Jan refuses the attentions of Nikoline, an indigenous lover, she commits a family suicide by burning down her house with her child. The traditional Nordic funeral hymn, "Gammal fäbodpsalm från Dalarna", is heard in the funeral sequence. The camera catches it in a distant high angle shot, tilting up along a mountain and further up to heaven.

A half-hidden current in the story is the profound resentment of the indigenous Greenland people towards Danish colonialists.

Kalak is an original tragedy of Vatermord. Isabella Eklöf offers us a potent cocktail, as powerful as the one mixed by Jan for his father in the finale, but with reverse impact. Eklöf wants to wake us up. 

The sublime landscapes of Greenland offer striking counter-images to the darkness of the fabula. According to the end credits they have been shot on photochemical Kodak film. 

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