The Land of Short Sentences [Meter i sekundet] — Scandinavian Film Festival 2023

Review by John P. Harvey.

Rasmus (Thomas Hwan) and Marie (Sofie Torp) and their infant son, Moo, have been happily living in Copenhagen.  Moo now old enough to attend day care, Marie is ready to go back to work.  But Rasmus has a surprise for her: he has been offered a position in the last region Marie would wish to live in: west Jutland.

They take it, and Rasmus replaces a former teacher at the local folk high school.

Rasmus has a flexible, accepting nature that eases his way into the community, and a kind attentiveness that endears him to his students.  And the teachers and their spouses eat together at the school every evening, which seems to offer Marie an opportunity to quickly become part of the local community.  But Marie, gregarious by nature and tending to speak without considering her listeners’ inabilities to cope with personal topics, finds herself a mere appendage, as do other spouses of the school’s teachers.

But this close community tries to involve newcomers.  So the school’s principal (Lotte Andersen) pushes Marie initially further out of her depth as she lands her a job as local advice columnist, and, through that, connects her with everyday people’s everyday agonies.

And then there’s the student who would like to seduce Rasmus.

Though Marie finally finds an easy friendship with local hotelier Kriss (Christine Gjerulff) and teams up with others, it may be only a chance encounter with Anders Agger — in real life, a self-help guru with his own television show, and playing himself in the film — that will lead Marie to imagine how she can safely cross the swamps of self-loathing, loneliness, and inadequacy to a worthwhile life in this community.

These difficulties may not sound very like the stuff of comedy; but in fact the sympathetic portrayals by Torp and Hwan and restrained performances by Agger, Bodil Jørgensen, Jens Jørn Spottag, and Jesper Hagelskær Paasch fill The Land of Short Sentences with laughs.  From the start, the film offers a suggestion of surreality, giving us quickly to understand that its tale is somewhat metaphorical: just a step removed from reality.  It’s with this understanding that we appreciate the chords of mortification shuddering from Marie’s (admittedly slightly improbable) indiscreetness in her offhand jokes with new acquaintances.

Warm, wise, and funny, carefully scripted, intimately shot, and tightly edited, The Land of Short Sentences is one to visit, even if you decide to leave afterward.

Liked it? Take a second to support John P. Harvey on Patreon!
Become a patron at Patreon!

Leave a Reply