It is a common occurrence in film for directors to go back to the same actor again and again if a fruitful working relationship is formed. Hans Petter Moland’s go-to guy is the acclaimed Swedish star Stellan Skarsgård and the Norwegian black comedy thriller ‘In Order of Disappearance’ marks their fourth collaboration. In the desolate mountains of Norway, Skarsgard stars as snow plough driver Nils Dickman; a well regarded decent citizen who is pushed to his limits following the murder of his son. The Nordic fjords and landscapes provide a breathtaking setting for a story that achieves a satisfying blend of violence and humour as a father hunts down justice, spilling rich red blood upon thick white snow.
The craft and creativity of Moland’s vision enhances the classic vengeance setup as he applies an inventive flair. The script is sharp, saying something about the current state of society in Norway, or in Europe as a whole, as well as including subtle jokes and culture references. The many deaths provide great physical humour as Nils mercilessly takes out members of the Oslo underworld The victims in the film, mostly undeserving of any sympathy whatsoever, have their deaths brilliantly noted by a still black frame with the departed’s name underneath their applicable religious symbol, marking each untimely demise with comic effect. At the heart of the film though, behind the stylish coating, is a very solid character study. Skarsgard gives a stellar performance depicting a man whose contentment with life is cruelly decimated.
The eccentric supporting characters enrich the plot, as a drug war ensues around Nils between the Oslo gang and a group of Serbians. Before long snow isn’t the only white substance on screen in abundance. The pony-tailed crime boss known as The Count, played by Pål Sverre Hagen, is an absurdly entertaining villain. Thinking the world owes him a favour, he whines and moans when things don’t go his way, and attends shady meetings armed with a revolver and a flat white. Veteran Swiss actor Bruno Ganz also appears as the amusing Serb leader Papa. Like an Eastern European Don Vito, his delivery his hoarse and his actions are deadly.
‘In Order of Disappearance’ is a visually stunning cinematic piece of work that refuses to be compartmentalised as it mixes genres comfortably and with glittering results. It works as both comedy and thriller, and the acoustic score even gives Western elements which is evident again in a gunfight finish. Scandinavian cinema continues to impress hugely and with the success the film has enjoyed on the festival circuit set to result in a nationwide release, it would be criminal to miss it.
Click here for my interview with director Hans Petter Moland
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