Kitchen Stories

Scientific efforts to maximize kitchen efficiency in post-WWII Sweden might seem a bizarre backdrop for a buddy comedy, but it's the perfect premise for writer-director Bent Hamer's delightfully offbeat and unexpectedly sweet film. Having observed the movements of countless housewives as they went about their daily routines, mapping out routes traveled an...read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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Scientific efforts to maximize kitchen efficiency in post-WWII Sweden might seem a bizarre backdrop for a buddy comedy, but it's the perfect premise for writer-director Bent Hamer's delightfully offbeat and unexpectedly sweet film. Having observed the movements of countless housewives as they went about their daily routines, mapping out routes traveled an attempt to design better kitchens and build improved household equipment, the researchers at Sweden's Home Research Institute are about to enter uncharted territory: the kitchen habits of unmarried males. The testing, which will take in place in Norway's frozen hinterlands, is a model of Swedish organization. Perched atop high chairs positioned in the corners of their hosts' kitchens, the Swedish observers will watch their Norwegian subjects as they navigate the room, tracing their paths on paper and noting their general behavior. At night, the researchers will retire to the small trailers parked outside, and to ensure that findings remain untainted, fraternization between observers and hosts is strictly forbidden. Hosts must not speak to the observers, and observers must not involve themselves in their hosts' chores. Should any kind of relationship develop, the study in that particular household will be immediately terminated. Folke Nilsson (Tomas Norstrom) has little fear of jeopardizing the experiment: He's been assigned to observe grumpy bachelor Isak Bjorvik (Joachim Calmeyer), who regrets having volunteered for the project and won't even answer the door. He eventually relents, but instead of complying with the research, he turns the tables on Folke by observing him through a knothole in the floor of the room directly above. As the long winter days drag on, the freeze between the two men begins to thaw; ignoring the rules and even overcoming lingering wartime bad blood between neutral Sweden and Nazi-occupied Norway, Folke and Isak secretly become friends. When Folke receives word that a fellow observer has been sent home in disgrace after he's caught getting drunk with his host, Folke realizes that observation without communication is worthless, and must decide what's more important: companionship or efficient kitchens. Bizarre though Hamer's setup seems, he based his script on the real-life efforts of Stockholm's Swedish Research Institute, which aspired to make housework easier by bringing a positivistic approach to home science research. Hamer perfectly captures that post-WWII spirit of better living through science by positioning streamlined Swedish cars and hump-backed trailers against the timeless Norwegian landscape.

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  • Released: 2004
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: Scientific efforts to maximize kitchen efficiency in post-WWII Sweden might seem a bizarre backdrop for a buddy comedy, but it's the perfect premise for writer-director Bent Hamer's delightfully offbeat and unexpectedly sweet film. Having observed the move… (more)

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