Cool And Crazy

Cool And Crazy


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

The small and frighteningly exposed fishing village of Berlevag, Norway, has hit the big time, care of this endearing documentary about the lives and loves of its male voice choir. This slice of life from Finmarka, not far from the North Pole, is a joy from start to finish.

By carefully intercutting a series of performances from the Manschoir with several of the 30-strong members, ranging in age from 29 to 96, the director, Knut Erik Jensen, shows us their appreciation of music and other romances, with a healthy dose of cod philosophy.

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The opening sequence is of the choir singing in the snow, with the wind, clearly audible, howling around them and the Barents Sea stretching away behind them over the breakwaters, while footage of their reaction to the ravaged state of the land near Murmansk, where they go on tour, will move all but the hardest of hearts.

This gentleman's co-operative is certainly game for anything, singing out-of-doors in the wildest of weather so that Jensen can show us the full impact of where they live and work. At one point they literally have icicles hanging from their noses, while children toboggan down a slope beside them, but the clarity and beauty of their singing remains undimmed. This is one of the best aspects of the film. Jensen doesn't represent a choir, shut away from the world, huddled against the cold. Instead, he shows them in the elements, demonstrating their vitality and lust for life.

The words to the songs speak of fishing and filleting, frivolity and faith, set against the backdrop of modern day Berlevag, which has suffered from cutbacks in the fishing industry. As one of the choir members, who manages the local job centre, observes wryly: "I employ most of the choir."

Jensen presents a loving portrait of this beautiful collection of characters, from the chain-smoking choir master, to the former amphetamine addict and the 96-year-old, whose younger brother - a mere 87 - is also a choir member. Even when they are not speaking directly to the camera, while on the tour bus, he captures their vigour. The choir's optimism is so pronounced, you can almost touch it.

"Why strive for more, when you live a fulfilling life?" one of the members says, while another adds: "Once morose, always morose."

It may be up north, but this is a long way from being grim. The good humour of all those involved, including the wives, is infectious and you can't help but come away from the movie with a smile on your face and an urge to buy their music.

One of the members jokes in Murmansk, as he signs an autograph, "Some day we are going to be very famous." That day is nigh.

Reviewed on: 13 Feb 2002
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Norwegian documentary telling the tale of a male voice choir and its members in the remote fishing village of Berlevag.
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Read more Cool And Crazy reviews:

Angus Wolfe Murray ***1/2

Director: Knut Erik Jensen

Starring: Berlevag Male Choir

Year: 2001

Runtime: 105 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: Norway


EIFF 2001

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