Salmer fra kjøkkenet (Kitchen Stories)

kitchen stories

In the 1950’s the Swedish government became involved in social engineering as a means of improving the lot in life for its citizens. Bent Hamer was amused after following post-war research books on the efficiency of the Swedish housewife, and pondered on the idea of research being done on men. This led to him making the film Kitchen Stories.  Swedish efficiency researchers come to Norway for a study of Norwegian men, to optimize their use of their kitchen. Folke Nilsson (Tomas Norström) is assigned to study the habits of Isak Bjørvik (Joachim Calmeyer). Folke dutifully rests on his chair in the kitchen and begins his watcher duties, recording Isak’s every move.  Isak, however, is a bit of a rebel and begins to silently do things to annoy his unwanted guest, turning out the lights and, most importantly, cooking in his bedroom to avoid Folke’s watchful eye. Early on, Kitchen Stories is filled with little sight gags and well-timed reaction shots, as Calmeyer keeps checking Norström for small signs of approval of his cooking and cleaning methods.
Later, the film becomes the story of the friendship that develops, as the two begin doing little favors for each other: lending tobacco or salt or coffee, and even doing each other’s work. A film without much dialog and virtually no action, in the traditional sense, should be, by all rights, boring. But, from the start, “Kitchen Stories” captures your attention with its tongue in cheek humor, amusing wit and an amazing amount of chemistry between the main characters, Isak and Folke. The rhythm of their day-to-day existence is slow and relaxed and, as the ice breaks between them, a warm, caring friendship builds. Hamer and his cinematographer Philip Øgaard (“Aberdeen”) have a terrific sense of mise en scene. Colors and shapes are all carefully composed within the frame. Composer Hans Mathisen’s simple, sweet music is the perfect complement to this gently told tale.

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