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The film that got me rolling on the floor laughing at herring

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The image of the Swedes has changed. Some years ago people used to think of us as blond, tall and hot. That was always a bit of a downer to me, who is short and dark and ordinary. Travelling abroad I always got suspicious looks when I declared my nationality. “No way! You’re obviously French. And jewish.”

The modern stereotype is different. The Swedish love interest of Audrey Tautou’s character in the new French film Delicacy is tall, red-blond and bearded. But what makes him look truly Swedish are his ugly but comfortable clothes and shoes and the fact that he uses a backpack for his belongings in an office environment where everyone else uses briefcases.

The actor Francois Damiens is from Belgium. According to an interview they couldn’t find any Swedish actor who spoke French. And I have nothing to complain about as far as his looks are concerned. He could easily pass for a Swede. His attitude and thinking is a different story. The makers of the movie claim that they’re fans of Sweden and have spent a lot of time here, but I’m afraid it doesn’t show. It’s not just that the guy speaks flawless French – even when he’s on his own and speaks aloud to himself. His entire behaviour is very atypical for a Swede.

The story in the film goes like this: Here’s this young woman who loses her husband all of a sudden. After years of grieving she falls in love with the goofiest, most unattractive, lowest ranked guy at the office – the Swede. Everyone is astonished since they don’t seem to make a good match. Audrey Tautou plays the same character as always: a cute and well dressed woman with big dark eyes, who looks sad but on the inside also is a bit quirky and funny and soulful does odd things from an impulse. As much I loved her in Amélie, it makes me cringe to see her so stuck with this role. She surely must have something more to offer?

I can imagine that this would be a perfect companion for a transatlantic trip. It’s got that special flight film quality, being so harmless and free from violence or explicit sex or offensive jokes, that there can’t be a single person in the world who would get upset watching it. If you’re interrupted by drink services or your neighbor having to visit the lavatory, it doesn’t matter at all since there isn’t very much going on after the initial death.

The herring scene
I swear that I wouldn’t have remembered anything of this film in a few months if it wasn’t for one little scene that got me laughing, unfortunately for the wrong reasons. It was the only scene that includes real Swedes – the short appearance of what’s supposed to be the Swede’s parents. They didn’t use real actors for this, but a couple that they had found at the Swedish Institute in France. I guess they thought they could get away with it since the French audience doesn’t know what they’re saying anyway. But for a Swedish audience, the scene is hilarious. Here they are, two people who look completely lost, saying their lines with the same amount of acting skill as they have in a really bad porn movie. And what they say doesn’t make sense at all. They’re talking about how worried they are that the Swede doesn’t eat enough of herring and then they open their cupboard which is filled to the brim with herring.

For a Swede, the tone in this scene is just so wrong. Suddenly I was thrown out of this quiet little feel-good-movie and into a completely absurd scene from Roy Andersson or Monty Python. And I laughed and I laughed and I laughed. Loud and uncontrollable in a way I haven’t laughed for years, if ever. I’m not a loud laugher. I barely giggle. Usually I snicker and smile, at the most. But not this time. I was all but rolling on the floor. The next scene arrived, and I could see that it probably was a serious one, but I didn’t hear a word anymore of what they were saying. I was still laughing at the herrings. Think of Elaine in the Seinfeld episode about the Pez dispenser and you get the picture.

It isn’t likely that anyone who was in the theatre that night will read this post. However if you do: I apologize if I ruined the next scene for you. I just couldn’t help myself.

And now, can someone please put up that scene on Youtube?

Delicacy (La délicatesse, David & Stéphane Foekinos, FR, 2011) My Rating: 3/5

Written by Jessica

July 24, 2012 at 1:00 am

Posted in Delicacy