ninth symphony films - movie reviews


DIRECTOR  -  hans petter moland

RATED  -  r

GENRE  -  drama

LENGTH  -  106 minutes

RELEASED  -  21 october 2001

DISTRIBUTOR  -  first run features

OFFICIAL SITE  -  aberdeen

ESTIMATED BUDGET  -  $6,500,000
aberdeen - a shot from the film


buy the dvd from aberdeen at

buy the dvd from aberdeen at

a young woman, kaisa, promises her dying mother, that she will travel from scotland to norway to find her estranged father and bring him home.

received many awards from film festivals before being theatrically released.


picture from aberdeen

picture from aberdeen

picture from aberdeen


three out of four possible stars

The first word that comes to mind when describing Aberdeen is disturbing. Not disturbing in the way that a horror film would be, but disturbing in the raw portrayal of a father-daughter relationship and the emotional confusion those two characters put themselves through because of a strained affiliation with one another. When “Kaisa,” played by Lena Headly, is forced to travel to the Continent from Scotland to bring her father back home, the audience is introduced to a coke sniffing, one night standing, albeit successful London lawyer, who has no real use for either of her parents.

And when she arrives in Norway to find her father, a multitude of problems occur and she ends up having to drive through Europe to get back. And unfortunately for her, she has to bring her father, who is a rather mean drunkard named “Tomas” (played brilliantly by Stellan Skarsgård) who wants nothing to do with Kaisa or her request that he come back to Scotland. The film turns into something of a road trip with many moments of drama and confrontation being played out against the backdrop of an icy European winter. And the cast of real supporting actors in this film is rather small for much of the film, so the viewer has ample time to watch the horrid relationship between Kaisa and Tomas deteriorate even further until both of them are quite mad.

As a film based in Norway which used the English language as its primary one and a mostly British cast in its roles, the film is not one that American audiences would find at home in their small-town local multiplex. Aberdeen is an independent film through and through and it pushes the envelope of how emotional and dramatic an actor can be on screen in nearly every scene. With sequences that involve nudity, vomiting, and loud arguments, the film comes across more as a character study than a film with a very important plot. If anything, the plot is only a low-level device to transport the characters from the beginning of the film to the end, while they argue amongst themselves and create oodles of tension.

This method of filmmaking will certainly take an adjustment by American audiences, but the rewards of watching the film are many. It is the performances that are the most gripping element of the film, with aspects such as cinematography and set decoration being much more minor fundamentals. One can only wonder about those basics of filmmaking though, if they had been given more of an emphasis. Would they have taken too much weight off of the actors, thereby lessening their performances? Probably not, considering the power Skarsgård and Headly put forth in their roles.

If anything, the arguments between their characters border on the ridiculous at times, making sure the lack of an appreciable soundtrack will not be high on the short list of complaints in the film. It is as if the filmmakers attempted to make a film whose existence rested solely on the emotions of the main characters, and things like plot were elements included only because of their necessity to modern feature films. Known for pushing the envelope in film, the Norwegian film industry has not enjoyed a large export business (especially to America) simply because they have refused to make their movies "just like everyone else’s."

The idea of the dysfunctional family covered in this film is certainly one that mainstream audiences can identify with. And what may surprise viewers is that the characters, who are not anything like the warm and fuzzy variety, are endearing even through their madness. The outright hate that exists in this film might have made Kaisa and her father quite unsympathetic characters, but amazingly, it’s not a hard task at all to accomplish. One of the biggest ironies of the film is that two so entirely unsympathetic characters can become so engrossing. It’s near impossible to tear one’s face away from the screen while this movie is on it.

The characters of Aberdeen and the problems they face will make a mark on the mind of any viewer who gives the film his or her full attention. Though it is certainly not an easy film to watch, it is still a rewarding one emotionally, and can be labeled a "shocker" without that term meaning anything degrading to the filmmakers. It is probable that not all audiences would be able to stomach the emotions swirling around in this film, and it is not for the weak of heart. But still the experience is a rewarding one, and witnessing the painful hate that can exist between a father and daughter is not a topic frequently covered in today’s cinema. This movie exists as a strong character piece, but won’t win all viewers over with its offbeat execution.

Review by Kelsey Wyatt.

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