Terribly Happy (2008) Frygetelig Lykkelig
Director: Henrick Ruben Genz
Writers: Henrick Ruben Genz, Dunja Gry Jensen, Erling Jepsen
Stars: Jakob Cedergren, Lene Maria Christensen, Kim Bodnia
Reviewed By: Adam Griffith
How would you like to watch a Danish film noir/classic western with some elements of a good twilight zone episode tossed in for good measure? Intrigued yet? Well you should be, director Genz’s film Terribly Happy is such a fun watch, it will almost make you forget your reading subtitles. While part of the wave of Scandinavian imports to resonate with American Audiences recently, like the films Troll Hunter, Let the Right One In and the Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Terribly Happy is its own unique beast.
Robert (Jakob Cedergren) is a police officer from Denmark, that has been reassigned to a small Danish hamlet. Robert is sent to serve a penance after making some mistakes in Copenhagen. South Jutland where Robert finds himself is a spartan land, filled with bogs, mud, cows and rubber boots. The local townspeople welcome Robert with less than open arms. It appears South Jutland is a town where people take care of their own, it’s a rural one bar, one shop, one doctor place where everyone knows everyone elses business yet keeps to themselves.
The first friendly face Robert sees is that of Ingerlise (Lene Maria Christensen), the wife of the local bully Jorgen (Kim Bodnia). Ingerlise confides in Robert that she is being abused, but she is reluctant to do anything about her situation. The townspeople are well aware what is going on in town, but have their own views of both Ingerlise and Jorgen. Will Robert compromise his own moral compass to fit in with the town provincial societal norms?
Director Genz creates a dark intimidating atmosphere that permeates every inch of the screen. The characters are multidimensional leaving you to question and reassess their motivations and actions as the film progresses. The blending of several classic genres, western, noir and dark comedy, is achieved in no small part to the wonderful dialogue, and cinematography in the film. The characters seem real, albeit exceedingly creepy and your sense of right and wrong will be put to the test.
There has been a lot of talk of remaking this film in the United States. Director Genz has signed on for the project, however details about the project seems to have dried up since early in 2010. It’s interesting to note that Terribly Happy is supposedly based on a true story. Novel writer, and eccentric Erling Jepsen claims the story is based on a distant aunt and uncle. If you get a chance check out the bonus features, to watch an amazing interview with Genz and Jespen, where Jespen slaps Genz several times causing him to walk out of the interview.
Fans of the Cohen Brothers films, David Lynch, and modern film noir in general will find a lot to enjoy about Terribly Happy. The film is a dark and memorable addition to the fine films that have been coming from Scandinavia in recent years. Upon viewing its easy to see why the film was nominated for, and claimed so many international film festival awards. Head on down to South Jutland and give Terribly Happy a watch just don’t forget to bring your rubber boots and a loaded pistol. I am giving this film two and half cows.