IKEA vs Average Joe: A Review of Here is Harold
Her er Harold / Norway / 2014 / dir. Gunnar Vikene / 87 mins / comedy / starring Lena-Pia Bernhardsson, Björn Granath, Olaf Heggdal
Screening as part of the Scandinavian Film Festival in Australia
Gunnar Vikene’s stand-out film is a journey to capture the founder of IKEA after a new store destroys a local business. The story is so bizarre and the characters both unlikeable and likeable that you find yourself feeling sympathy for the situation and enjoying the ride.
The Norwegian attitude of complacence that we have become so used to seeing in the cinema of the 00’s has been heavily contrasted with the black comedies of the last few years. In The Bothersome Man, our hero was whisked away to an alternative universe and, rather than fight his way back to reality, he shrugged his shoulders and got on with life in this new world. Once a small and remote country, Norway has catapulted onto the main stage after discovering oil, and is currently one of the wealthiest and most modern countries in the world. Once sitting idly by as the world continued around them, Norwegians are fighting back against those who try to wrong them, and it makes for some fantastic comedy. A good example of this is in In Order of Disappearance, where our hero chases (and defeats!) the Serbian mafia, who are responsible for his sons death. I must admit I’m quite a fan of these comedies, and Here is Harold is no exception.
We open with a view of the dark, wintery Norwegian landscape, with a small business titled Lunde Furniture, a business that Harold has been running with his wife, Marny, for the last forty years. However, that comes to an end when IKEA decides to open right next to his shop. Harold and Marny lose both their shop and their home to the bank, and to make matters worse, Marny is losing her memory. Seeking revenge, Harold arms himself and sets off for Älmhult, Sweden, in order to kidnap his Nemesis – the founder of IKEA, Ingvar Kamprad. However, the story then steers from where you’d expect it to go, and you now watch as the two old men, Harold & Ingvar, fight and bicker and do basically everything you wouldn’t expect in a kidnapping.
What surprised me most about this film is that the founder of IKEA is ‘captured’ within the first thirty minutes, crushing any ideas I had of this film as being a road movie filled with hilarity. Instead of following conventional plot points, it steers into a realm of absurdity where we find ourselves both loving and loathing the characters. To make things more absurd, Harold is aided by his teenage Swedish sidekick, Ebba, who provides the most logic to the series while she is tending to her crazy alcoholic mother. At times, these various story-lines come across as too confusing and overbearing – there is also another plot-line where Harold tries to bond with his son. I didn’t particularly care for that story-line and it felt rushed; it was also disappointing to see it as the closer for the film.
If you can get past the absurdity of the plot, you can really come to enjoy the relationship between Harold, Ingvar and Ebba, and it becomes a real joy to be along for the ride. Bjørn Sundquist is brilliant as Harold, a completely useless average joe-turned-thief. There is a real chemistry between him and Bjørn Granath as the founder of IKEA, and watching the two men stumble their way through the kidnapping is entertaining. The real stand-out is Ebba, played by Fanny Ketter, and it’s a joy watching her try to make some seriousness of the situation.
Overall, Here is Harold is a fine example of Norwegian black comedy – watching two old men bicker about furniture, life, and all that’s in-between while set against the Nordic winter is a real joy. It’s a film that anyone can find themselves enjoying, and the unique concept of a war against IKEA is something I’m sure we’ve all dreamt of after a long day trying to find a new piece of furniture there!
Images via TrustNordisk