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A Human Position

Director - Anders Emblem - 2022

"Dirty gem"
Anders Emblem’s second film is an intimate portrait of a young woman recovering from a mysterious trauma, featuring a superb performance from Amalie Ibsen Jensen - live from the Tromsø International Film Festival


We all need a home. It’s not just a place, an address. It’s not just the building, the rooms or the furniture. It’s not even the people we live with. But it is all of those things as well. Anders Emblem’s second film – which had its world premiere at the Tromsø International Film Festival this week – is a meditation; a quiet, artful but insistent building of and furnishing of a home. And it’s a place you’ll want to spend some time in.

Asta (Amalie Ibsen Jensen) is a young journalist who is returning to work on her local newspaper in Ålesund. She spends her days reporting the sports events, business initiatives, grassroots political action and traffic incidents while her photographer snaps the pictures of the local people for a moment fixed in the small spotlight of local fame. She is burden by something though, distracted by some hidden burden.

The film will be stingy in its revelations, as if it’s not sure we can be trusted. This is a private thing. Asta lives with Live (Maria Agwumaro), but are they roommates or girlfriends? What’s the nature of Asta’s trauma? Where are the other friends and her extended family? The film has narrowed its focus to match Asta’s own. She is concentrating on what is in front of her. And the case of an asylum seeker Aslan comes across her desk and she is drawn into investigating his case and in the process considering the social injustice that she sees it as typifying. Here is someone who doesn’t have all that Asta – even in the depths of her depression – takes for granted.

Cinematographer Michael Mark Lanham frames each shot with meticulous care. At first the pace is slow – the first shot last in excess of one minute – and shows the town as a figure approaches on a path. But once we’re in then the story unfolds and the mysteries resolve themselves in their own time. The stationary camera sometimes looking from above catches Asta in profile or face on, emphasizing that there are whole parts of the picture that we are missing. The home at first carves the frame into oblongs which fix Asta and outside Lanham’s camera reveals the hidden geometry of towns, the slants of roofs and cycle paths, the passing ferries on the sea. Inside, her workplace is diagonal stairs and multiple screen set ups. Characters drift out of shot, carrying on conversations with unseen interlocutors and we stay with the place.

But it is Live and Asta’s home which she returns to and which slowly becomes more than the trap it had seemed. Live restores furniture, and specifically chairs – as well as providing the music of the film with an old fashioned keyboard. A meandering kitten also adds to the sense of life going on in a way which is comforting. Brynhild Dagslott’s design is superb as the house becomes increasingly a home and Asta begins to come back from the pain she has found herself in. But it is Jensen’s and Agwumaro’s performances which bring the film its warmth. We want to know what is going on because we care about these women.

This is a calm, thoughtful and drily (oh so drily) witty film. It demands patience the way someone in pain demands patience. But being witness to healing is a privilege: being allowed into someone’s house to share an intimacy makes us generous, better people. And quietly insists that this is not just a human position but also in the broader picture a human right.

The 32nd Tromsø International Film Festival runs from January 17th to the 23rd. DMovies is reporting live all week!

"Dirty gem"

By John Bleasdale - 18-01-2022

By John Bleasdale - 18-01-2022

John Bleasdale is a film critic and writer based in Italy. He has published a novel entitled Blood is on the Grass and a book of short stories as well as a number of articles and features. His work ha...

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