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Kitchen Stories

A movie directed by Bent Hamer

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As quiet and dry as a Norwegian bachelor

  • May 13, 2012
Rating:
+4
Kitchen Stories, a Norwegion/Swedish co-production, starts out as a dry, deadpan comedy of differences and ends as a dry, deadpan comedy of friendships.

Sweden's Home Research Institute has just finished a detailed, observation-based study of the Swedish housewife's movements through her kitchen. The purpose is to maximize efficiency. The next step is a study of Norwegian bachelors and how they use their kitchens. Observers are sent out to scientifically plot the movements of their subjects' kitchen use. Folke Nilsson (Tomas Norstrom) is sent to the small farmhouse of Isak Bjornsson (Joachim Calmeyer), who lives on the outskirts of the Norwegian village of Landstad. Nilsson's instructions are clear. He is to have no interactions with the subject. He is not to speak. He is not to offer help. He is to spend his time observing from a tall highchair in the corner of the kitchen, saying nothing and only plotting the subject's movements. The study gets off to a rocky start. Bjornsson is a crafty, aging man who has had second thoughts about agreeing to take part. He quietly makes things difficult for Nilsson, turning off the light, leaving a faucet to deliberately drip, even boring a small hole in the ceiling above where Nilsson perches so that he can observe the observer.
 
Slowly, small gestures between the men evolve into a friendship. Nilsson uses a salt shaker to salt his boiled egg for lunch and when Bjornsson can't find the shaker, Nilsson coughs and slightly motions to where it is. Bjornsson one afternoon makes two cups of coffee instead of one, and Nilsson climbs off his perch to have it, without speaking. On a cold night, Bjornsson finds a blanket for Nilsson. Soon the two taciturn men are seated at the kitchen table, talking quietly about things. A tentative relationship develops into a real friendship. The ending is as dry and touching as the rest of the movie.
 
As the two men become friends, of course, the kitchen study is fatally compromised. While the friendship evolves, director Bent Hamer creates a commentary on all sorts of things. The movie looks quietly and amusingly at stereotypes (Swedish efficiency; Norwegian quaintness), behavior and sociology. I hope all the sociology teachers who see this movie have senses of humor; if they don't, they're going to have a bad research day.
 
At one point, one of the other observers comes pounding on the door of Nilsson's little trailer. The man and his subject have begun drinking and talking together. Nilsson's colleague has run out of booze and needs two bottles of beer. Nilsson refuses and the man shouts drunkenly at him, "We're not allowed to drink. Not allowed to talk. Folke, what the hell are we doing? We sit up there on our pedestals and think we understand everything. How can we think we understand anything about people simply by observing them? We have to talk to each other! We have to communicate!"
As quiet and dry as a Norwegian bachelor As quiet and dry as a Norwegian bachelor As quiet and dry as a Norwegian bachelor As quiet and dry as a Norwegian bachelor

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June 19, 2012
Some good points were made in the above.
 
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More Kitchen Stories reviews
review by . January 23, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Isak did not care to speak to Folke. Folke was not to speak to Isak. Such were the rules unspoken and otherwise. This is "Kitchen Stories," or, as this movie is known in Norway, "Salmer Fra Kjøkkenet."      Isak, as the subject of Folke's sociological research, offered himself up to be studied thinking a horse was to be provided, and when a toy horse arrived instead of a breathing one, on strike he went. Thus began their banal arrangement.   …
review by . December 26, 2009
posted in Movie Hype
Pros: Funny, warm, simple; great acting, visually appealing     Cons: None at all     The Bottom Line: Science sparks an unusual friendship     Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie''s plot. FILM ONLY REVIEW     Believing that he'll receive a horse in return, stubborn, set in his ways, bachelor Isak (Joachim Calmeyer) agrees to take part in a study by the Swedish Housekeeping Institute: they've …
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C. O. DeRiemer ()
Ranked #32
Since I retired in 1995 I have tried to hone skills in muttering to myself, writing and napping. At 75, I live in one of those places where one moves from independent living to hospice. I expect to begin … more
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About this movie

Wiki

A quaint story about the friendship between two aging men, KITCHEN STORIES is packaged as a comedy with a very strange premise. It is based on research conducted in Sweden in the 1950s when women were observed in the kitchen for a study to determine the best housework techniques. In the film, a fictional plotline concerns a team of Swedish scientists--all men--hired to observe bachelors living alone in Norway. Their methods are absurd. The observers live in funny little trailers outside their subjects' houses. They sit in high, intimidating chairs placed in the corner of their subjects' kitchens where they take notes on a clipboard. Finally, there is a strict rule that the observer and the subject must not speak to each other or make contact of any kind. This last rule is impossible to follow, and in the case of observer Folke (Tomas Norstrom) and subject Isak (Joachim Calmeyer) it is ignored. The two aging men become fast friends, passing wintry afternoons in the rural countryside sipping coffee, smokin...
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Details

Director: Bent Hamer
Genre: Drama
Release Date: February 20, 2004
MPAA Rating: Unrated
DVD Release Date: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment (December 14, 2004)
Runtime: 1hr 31min
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