The illusions of winter: a review of Dirk Ohm: The Illusionist

In the central northern Norwegian town of Grong the thick layer of snow and surrounding mountains serve as the perfect location to play with the audiences perception of what is and isn’t reality. Using the real-life story of the disappearance of a German illusionist called Dirk Ohm in this very town, The Disappearing Illusionist plays like a Twin Peaks episode set in remote Norway, but with such a beauty and intensity that allows it to become its own.

The Disappearing Illusionist is the debut feature film by Bobbie Peers, who is best known for his Palm d’Or win for his short film Sniffer at the Cannes Film Festival in 2006. The plot-line is simple enough: in the middle of winter Dirk Dirk Ohm 2Ohm (August Diehl) arrives in the small Norwegian town, which is in the middle of searching for missing girl Maria (Sara Hjort Diltevesen). The mother believes that Ohm will be able to see what happen to her daughter, and while at first Ohm disagrees with this idea, he soon finds himself searching for Maria alongside the locals and begins to fall in love with her. In addition to that, he finds himself realising that his illusions are more real than he thought. In the loneliness of his hotel room he gives in to the illusion of their relationship, which is more real to him than anything else.

The plot merely works as a device to highlight the eeriness of Dirk Ohm’s persona. Diehl’s performance is low-key, but he carries it with such intensity that you cannot comprehend his character. While he is merely an observer in the story, his loneliness and inability to show emotions works well as a stark contrast to the small towns increasing despair.

The clear highlight of the film is the way it plays on the borderline between reality and dreams. This is best achieved through the eeriness it creates with the beautiful combination of cinematography and sound, which is all the more achieved through the use of shooting on film rather than digitally. The overall uneasiness of the film can be compared to David Lynch’s Twin Peaks, but with a Norwegian wintery charm that will fascinate international audiences. Snow, cold and ice blend seamlessly to create an uncomfortable sense that something is not quite right with both Dirk’s persona and the town.  The film leaves you questioning what was and wasn’t real, and it is very effective in painting a portrait of a man who has disappeared.

While the film had a limited release to Norwegian audiences, its appearance as part of the Official Selection at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival shows the film has a very strong potential and we hope it finds its way to more festivals around the world.

Extra details

  • Norwegian release date:20.03.2015
  • International premiere:Karlovy Vary International Film Festival 2015
  • Director:Bobbie Peers
  • Screenplay:Bjørn Olaf Johannessen
  • Producer:Maria Ekerhovd
  • Co-Producer:Lizette Jonijc, Gian-Piero Ringel
  • Executive Producer:Axel Helgeland
  • Format:Feature film – 95 min
  • Genre:Drama
  • Cast:August Diehl, Sara Hjort Ditlevsen, Jørgen Langhelle, Alexandra Rapaport, Ingvar Sigurdsson
  • Language:English, Norwegian, German
  • Distributor:SF Norway
  • Sales Agent:Films Distribution
  • Supported by:NFI, Eurimages


CategoriesNorway Reviews
Emma Vestrheim

Emma Vestrheim is the editor-in-chief of Cinema Scandinavia. Originally from Australia, she is now based in Bergen, Norway, and attends major Nordic film festivals to conduct interviews and review new films.

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