[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Sunday, 18 May, 2003, 10:14 GMT 11:14 UK
Bachelors' kitchen sink drama

By Helen Bushby
BBC News Online Entertainment staff in Cannes

Kitchen Stories is one of the most bizarre films being screened at Cannes Film Festival, focusing on a scientific study of the kitchen habits of bachelors in 1950s Norway.

The idea of the film came to its co-writer and director, Bent Hamer, after he found some books in a flea market full of post-war scientific findings on the most efficient way for women to do housework.

The Swedish Home Research Institute's laboratories did research into how best to organise kitchen workstations.

They had concluded: "Instead of a housewife having to walk the equivalent of Sweden to the Congo during a year of cooking, she now only needs to walk to northern Italy to get food on the table."

Hamer told BBC News Online: "I'd seen books like these 25 years ago and they really made me laugh, especially all the detailed diagrams.

Scene from film
The film is a bizarre take on 1950s Norway

"After finding the books again the idea came to me - what if a study had been done on men - in particular bachelors?"

Of course, bachelors in the 1950s were not known for their culinary skills, and so the movie's two main characters eat a worrying amount of chocolate, boiled eggs and herrings.

There are no women in the film - it focuses on a garrulous old bachelor, Isak, and his awkward observer Folke, who must sit in a high chair in the corner of the kitchen, writing down his subject's every move without speaking to him.

Folke does not stay in Isak's house - he must live outside in an egg-shaped caravan, where he retreats to listen to jazz and eat his beloved smoked herrings.

Both men are rather repressed at the beginning of the film, not least because they are forbidden to communicate, which makes for some very funny, often touching scenes.

Scene from film
The characters are all male

Isak loathes being watched - he agreed to the study only because he mistakenly thought he would be given a horse if he took part - and so he drills a hole in the floor above Folke's head so he can reverse the roles.

But as the film progresses, the men's relationship evolves, initially because they share a taste for tobacco and beer, but also because they are lonely.

"The film was challenging to make because on the surface it was very serious, with the men barely speaking to each other - but the seriousness of the situation helped create the humour," Norwegian-born Hamer said.

He added he had chosen to cast only men in the film "because it was easier - besides, if there had been women playing observers in the film it would have added a sexual dimension, and I didn't want that".

Capturing the era

Tomas Norstrom
Actor Tomas Norstrom loved the humour of the part

Swedish actor Tomas Norstrom, who plays Folke, said he jumped at the role because "I could see the humour in it, and it is seldom you read a script like this".

His co-star Joachim Calmeyer, who plays Isak, agreed.

"I'm also old enough to remember the 1950s and the film captured the era so well - I fell in love with the script," said Calmeyer, who has been given the Norwegian equivalent of a knighthood for his contribution to acting.

Both men said the film had initially been difficult to make, with Norstrom adding: "It's challenging to feel safe and secure in front of the camera when you appear to be doing nothing."

"You just had to trust the situation," said Calmeyer. "It was all a matter of getting the timing right."

Joachim Calmeyer
Actor Joachim Calmeyer fell in love with the script

Norstrom was drawn to acting because his father, who died before the film was finished, had been a Charlie Chaplin fanatic, and so father and son would watch endless Chaplin films.

Film award

"My father was very distant, and after my sister saw Kitchen Stories she had tears pouring down her face - she said my character was just like our father," he said.

"Maybe doing the film was a way of getting closer to him - he'd have loved it," he added.

Calmeyer's mother was his inspiration for acting - she had been a dancer, and as a boy he had sold programmes outside cabaret shows, sparking his "fascination" with the stage.

Director Bent Hamer
Director Bent Hamer said the humour came out of its serious situation

The film has already begun to make its mark, winning a prize from the International Federation of Film Critics earlier this year, and was well-received after its release in Norway.

Hamer said being in Cannes could not be better for his unusual film.

"It's good for the film to sell it and have people from around the world see it," he said.

"It's also a great feeling to meet others here who understand what you're doing."


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia
UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health
Have Your Say | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific