Movie Review by Alice Castle
Starring: Berlevag Male Choir
Director: Knut Erik Jensen
Norwegian male voice choir sing hearty fish-spearing songs to encourage spring to come faster in a near arctic setting. Doesn’t sound too promising does it – but COOL AND CRAZY is one of the most interesting films I’ve seen in a long time.
Filmed on DV, the film takes an intimate documentary approach to the lives of 20 or so men who sing in a famous choir in Berlevåg, a northerly region of Norway made famous by BABETTE’S FEAST. This is the land of the Vikings, and it’s no surprise that these are tough, hardy men with a practical no-nonsense approach to life. One is a reformed drug addict, another a die-hard Marxist-Leninist; the conductor in a wheelchair is heaved up and down from rehearsal to performance, and two brothers age 86 and 97 tell us about their lives, loves and the fact they never miss a rehearsal. All the men are built for the frozen winters and intermittent storms and there are some wonderful choreographed scenes of them singing through blizzards in the open air – sharp blue eyes framed by frozen eyelashes.
The Choir is invited to perform a concert in Archangelsk, which involves them crossing the border in a coach from Norway to Russia up near Archangelsk – one of the most god-forsaken cities I’ve ever visited. The confirmed Marxist has been polishing up his Russian and is extremely excited about singing in his spiritual home, but other choir members accuse him of living in a fantasy world and involve him in a fiery debate about the fall of Communism. Scandinavians with, what seems their in-built respect for the environment are horrified by the pollution they see on the Russian borders. Whole forests wiped out by factory effluent. Despite their political differences though all the members of the choir are visibly moved by the reception of their enthusiastic Russian audiences and the awe-inspiring Stalinesque memorial to the war dead.