1001 Gram / Norway / 2014 / dir. Bent Hamer / 95 mins / drama / starring Ane Dahl Torp, Laurent Stocker, & Hildegun Riise
“Life’s heaviest burden is to have nothing to carry.”
Screened as part of the Chicago International Film Festival
Under normal circumstances, Marie (Ane Dahl Torp), a Norwegian scientist working for the Bureau of Weights and Measures, would be thrilled to be chosen to attend her industry’s most prestigious seminar hosted in Paris. But while Marie’s entire life is concerned with measurement and precision (from her work to her own emotions), the invitation comes at a time when the rest of her life is, uncontrollably, falling apart.
Director Bent Hamer (“Factotum”), with this film selected as Norway’s submission to the foreign language film category at the 87th Academy Awards, uses an esoteric science community as the setting for an offbeat comedy about weighing loss and love.
1001 Grams is a lot of fun because it includes, in addition to comedy and romance, an education. You’ll learn about the existence of the national kilo program – the last surviving physical reference in a world ruled by digital scales. To regulate measurements all around the world, the kilos are occasionally calibrated against the original prototype, forged in 1889.
This obscure field may seem somewhat insignificant, but consider the consequences of allowing the kilograms to go uncalibrated. One character in 1001 Grams jokingly suggests it would lead to war, but really – what do we know without a few universal constants to guide our science and link the countries of the world to the same reference point?
Hamer is a skilled storyteller, and understands that romance is a part of life – not the sole purpose of it. Along the way, Marie meets an ex-scientist (Laurent Stocker) who’s chosen to garden and study nature over working in a lab. This fluttering romantic connection works wonderfully for the film because we know that Marie doesn’t need this man – the story will not contort to fulfil their uniting – he simply enriches her life.
Cinematographer John Christian Rosenlund reflects the richness of the science-minded comedy with photography that highlights natural and artificial geometry. Marie lives in a wonderfully abstract home, but seen from above it’s just one in rows upon rows of identical, seemingly abstract houses. Nearly every shot is doing something. A typical transitional shot shows Marie’s two-seater electric car driving away. But 1001 Grams takes the time to throw in a pothole for her to swerve around – one that would likely right her tiny car – for an added laugh. At home, she sleeps in a queen-sized bed under a twin-sized blanket – accentuating the empty space once filled by her ex-husband. Little touches are put into every set-up, and nothing is captured without actively contributing to the storytelling.
“1001 Grams” recalls the promising work of Mike Cahill (“I Origins,” “Another Earth”) – a filmmaker similarly interested in making movies that succeed on both intellectual and emotional scales. Hamer’s film is well made, unexpectedly funny, and hums with good intentions as it takes the time to build a new world and consider how its observations on weights and measures can change and guide Marie’s (and the audience’s) life.
Review by Taylor Sinople