“It is important to understand what the definition of weight does to man.”
Comedian Sarah Silvermann sent out a recent tweet that read:
“I’m either inspired & empowered or paralyzed & broken by the realization that absolutely nothing matters.”
Now, she’s obviously not the first person to come to that realization. This was no revelation on her part. But I read that tweet around the same time I watched 1,001 Grams which, coincidentally, plays off of that same kind of ideology (on some level), so Silvermann’s tweet remained in the back of my mind the entire time I watched Bent Hammer’s latest film (it should also be said that I live in a city that can make you feel like you don’t matter from time to time so that added an additional layer to my personal viewing experience of this).
In 1,001 Grams we follow “Marie” – a recently divorced science lab technician on the verge of a breakdown. She’s lonely, unhealthily attached to her job, painfully deadpan & emotionless (like a character in a Kaurismaki film) and her actions almost seem mechanic & predetermined like she was lifted from the mind of Robert Bresson and placed in another director’s film.
As the story progresses, things come crashing down on & around Marie to the point where she’s ready to throw in the towel. Her recent divorce, her father’s failing health and the new-found responsibility she faces at her job (along with the circumstances surrounding how she inherited said responsibility) all become too much for her to handle.
She eventually finds companionship in the form of “Pi” – a like-minded Parisian man with an affinity for science, birds and, of course, Marie. Will Marie choose love & companionship with Pi or become another depressed work-obsessed humanoid robot like an unnamed out of Office Space.
I cant decide if 1,001 Grams is a mature yet sappy romcom hidden inside a slightly depressive “art house” dramedy, or if it’s a slightly depressive “art house” dramedy hidden inside a sappy romcom. Either way, this somewhat alienating film was surprisingly enjoyable (I say surprisingly because I’m not that crazy about Hamer’s previous work like; Kitchen Stories, Factotum or O’ Horten. However 1,001 Grams was so good that I plan on giving his filmography a 2nd chance in the near future). On one hand, this film is filled with the kinds of things one would expect from a small-scale Scandinavian art house movie (slow pacing, sparse dialogue, deadpan delivery, and slightly pretentious subject matter). But it also comes with the kinds of cliche’s we’d find in a Kate Hudson/Matthew McConaughey romcom (chance encounters, borderline gag-worthy romance and the perfect happy ending). I found this unique because it’s made up of just as many parts Match Factory Girl, Dogtooth, and Songs From The Second Floor as it is Bridesmaids, The Divorce, and As Good As It Gets. This is the kind of movie that could potentially bridge uppity yet open-minded cinephiles with casual movie-goers who are willing to step outside of their Leonard Maltin-suggested universe of movie watching.
But 1,001 Grams is about more than just romance & happy endings. Bent Hamer also (unintentionally) takes Mike Judge’s content from Office Space and makes it slightly more depressing and existential (although he still manages to retain some of the humor). The painful boredom & repetition shown in this film (and on the faces of some of the characters) is intentional — I say this because I envision people watching 1,001 Grams and complaining about how “boring” it is not realizing that’s kind of the point. Hamer picked a particularly boring branch of science (the field of accuracy in the measurement of the kilogram) to play the backdrop in this film because he knew how boring it would come off. As some of you know, the more you become bored with something, the more you start to question it’s importance and overall meaning (see Sarah Silvermann’s tweet at the beginning of this review). Delving in to the realistic side of boredom is obviously a gamble as it might alienate a nice portion of your audience (which I’m sure it will), but if you have the fortitude to hang in there (this film is only 85 minutes long), it pays off in the end.
My only issue with this film was the music. While 1,001 Grams is certainly a solid piece of work, it could have been considered excellent had there been no music whatsoever. The deadpan quirkiness within the film was enough. The Wes Anderson/Mark Mothersbaugh-esque music added an additional layer of quirkiness that wasn’t really needed. This is just my personal opinion but had there been no music in this particular film it would have made things more challenging & awkward for the viewer which is what I felt Hamer was going for.
I could complain about the ending if I wanted to nitpick but there’s really no other way this movie could have come to a close, so…I’ll give it a pass…