The House Of Angels

***

Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

If this old people's home is anything to go by, the Norwegians deserve to feel proud of their Welfare State. The conditions are exemplary, the staff considerate and the inmates not too crazy.

The lady who refuses to wear a funny hat for a dinner party, isn't forced. She sits alone in the next room, swinging her feet, listening to noises off. Another announces quite suddenly in a loud voice, "No sleeping during the day? I can do whatever I like," and promptly curls up in a chair. Margreth Olin's documentary has access to wonderful material. It is just a question of what she edits in and what she edits out. When they reach an age beyond reason, old people are both vulnerable and indomitable. Death watches them and they know it. The ladies have their hair done, the gentlemen reminisce ("I cry almost every night," one says, remembering his dead wife. "We shared the same bed for 70 years").

There is a voyeuristic element, certainly, although the cameraman has a role, too ("Where did you get such nice curls?", a flirtatious granny inquires. "From my parents," he replies, sensibly). What you learn about knarlies is not new. "Don't breathe too hard," a skinny, naked exhibitionist warns, "you'll knock me over." A sense of humour lasts longer than a sense of balance. The lady whose children are too busy to visit, sighs, "I look forward to the evenings when I can go to sleep." No one complains much, although there are cries in the night. Tomorrow, a dance has been arranged. Won't that be fun! Someone at the tea table is stuffing her face: "More cream cake, more cream cake, more cream cake..." No one tells her to put a sock in it. They are tolerant and deeply civilised in Norway. Nice place to die.

Reviewed on: 08 Jul 2007
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Documentary about life in a Norwegian old people's home.

Director: Margaret Olin

Year: 1998

Runtime: 97 minutes

Country: Norway

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