Directors’ Showcase / UK premiere

Terribly Happy (Frygtelig Lykkelig)

  • Henrik Ruben Genz /
  • Denmark /
  • 2008 /
  • 95 mins

Jakob Cedergren, Lene Maria Christensen, Kim Bodnia, Lars Brygmann, Anders Hove, Jens Jørn Spottag / Fiction / Danish

An award winning tale of intrigue, oddity and bogs.

Tightly scripted, carefully composed, shrewdly acted and perceptively scored, this dark, ominously macabre comedy has garnered many awards since its premiere at Karlovy Vary Film Festival last July. Having won their Grand Prix Crystal Globe for Best Film, it subsequently picked up seven Robert Awards – the Danish Oscars – and six Bodil Awards from Denmark's National Association of Film Critics. Based on the novel by best-selling author Erling Jepsen, a childhood neighbour of director Henrik Ruben Genz, Terribly Happy skilfully weaves an intriguingly odd and sinister tale of compromise and corruption within the small provincial town of Skarrild, South Jutland – the area in which both Genz and Jepsen grew up. Re-assigned to this remote town in the wake of a mysterious incident, police officer Robert is determined to bury his past and quickly earn his way back to Copenhagen. Unfortunately, country life is not as simple as he first thought. Subjugated by the community’s small town eccentricity and fierce wariness of newcomers, his good intentions are soon tested by some very strange goings on and an inscrutable damsel in distress. Complementing the ambiguity of the plot, Genz imaginatively employs the visual motifs and codes of numerous genres: western, noir, psychological thriller and provincial comedy. Like the community of Skarrild that scorns Robert’s by-thebook approach, Genz refuses to allow Terribly Happy to submit to any classic thematic or filmic codes. In a manner echoing the Coen Brothers, he toys with their conventions in order to defy his audience’s expectations at every turn. Key to this distortion is Jørgen Johansson’s luminously precise cinematography, which captures the enigmatic stillness of the South Jutland landscape and renders it a pivotal character in the drama. Together with the oddly timeless set design, perfectly estranged performances and a tonally ambiguous soundtrack by Kare Bjerko – whose proficiency can also be heard in Little Soldier (p82) – Genz subtly underlines the sardonic mysteriousness of it all. Through his inventive and disconcertingly composed style of storytelling, he has achieved an exceptionally surreal world that oozes with suspense.

2009 Archive

Image from Terribly Happy

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