Home Issue 10 Key House Mirror / Nøgle hus spejl

Key House Mirror / Nøgle hus spejl


Legendary actors Ghita Nørby and Sven Wollter play the leads in this deeply moving coming-of-age love story. Lily and Max have been married for upward of 50 years. They live in a shared room in a nursing home, where professionals have cared for Max since he suffered a series of strokes. Lily has been dutifully putting aside her own needs to help care for her husband, who at this point is completely unresponsive. Lily is fit, fun-loving, and miserable in the home, a holding pen for incapacitated elders. Her occasional uber-cheerful visits from her daughter’s family, which she waits for desperately but which last only a few minutes, don’t fill the void. Unwilling to sit around and wait to die, she longs for excitement and intimacy. One night, on a forbidden late-night foray into the facility’s kitchen, Lily runs into a fellow raider, a Swedish charmer named Erik. A former SAS pilot and an amateur trumpet player, he’s a man who’s seen something of the world. Initially put off by his rakish ways, Lily is drawn to him as her husband’s condition worsens. Delighted with her new emotional and sensual outlook on life, Lily announces her love affair to her daughter at Christmas. But neither her family nor the other residents of the home are amused, and they try to stop her from doing the only thing that brings her joy. Lily decides to fight back, plotting to escape for a time with Erik. But something’s wrong: she’s becoming confused. Just when she’s starting to find herself, Lily seems to be losing her mind.

Key House Mirror is not a bleak tale of illness and old age. It’s a romantic comedy, as Lily and Erik find ways to outwit their minders and indulge in their forbidden affair. It’s an uplifting story, too, about the pursuit of happiness as a means of overcoming despair – no matter how many decades you’ve put behind you. Ghita Nørby and Sven Wollter are octogenarians at the height of their powers and absolutely delightful to watch; she, girlishly joyful at the promise of a newly-shared life, and he, amusing yet respectful, a suitor who recognizes his own limits.

Director Michael Noer is only 36 but has already made three award-winning films. With Key House Mirror, he drew on his experience with his grandmother’s incapacitation in a nursing home. It’s a change of pace after R (2010), which investigated conditions in a Danish prison, and Northwest (2013), which examined youth violence. But all Noer’s feature films deal with conditions in closed groups where societal circumstances force people into claustrophobic situations. He uses only one or two professional actors combined with actual residents of the ‘scene,’ lending his films a documentary feel. Its avoidance of pat sentimentality, and obvious sympathy with its subject, render Key House Mirror quietly affective.

  • Directed by Michael Noer
  • Produced by Nordisk Film Production
  • Starring Ghita Nørby, Sven Wollter, Trine Pallesen, Jens Brenaa


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Brenda Benthien is a program consultant and the Guest Relations Director of the Cleveland International Film Festival. She works in Guest Management at the Nordic Film Days in Lübeck and serves as a consultant to the Cinetopia International Film Festival in Ann Arbor and Detroit. Brenda was involved with starting up AFI Fest in Los Angeles, and has lived and worked in Munich and Tokyo. When she isn’t busy with festivals, Brenda is a German translator of screenplays and film-related texts. Her translation of Rudolf Arnheim’s Film Essays and Criticism is published by the University of Wisconsin press. Brenda lives in Hamburg and runs the Hamburg Review website, a critical compendium of writings on film and literature. www.hamburg-review.de