Movie Review: Kitchen Stories (2004)

Original title: Salmer fra kjøkkenet

Director: Bent Hamer

Cast: Joachim Calmeyer, Tomas Norström, Bjørn Floberg, Reine Brynolfsson

Language: Norwegian

In the 1950s, a Swedish Research Institute carried out a study on housewives to learn what would make a more efficient kitchen and improve their routines. Director Bent Harmer, after finding out about this, wondered what it would be like to have conducted the same kind of study with men. And so the idea for Kitchen Stories was born.

The film, however, is set in Norway. A group of Swedish researchers travel to a small village and camp in little caravans outside the homes of the subjects; they then observe their movements from a high chair in their kitchens.

“How can we understand each other without communicating?” – Isak

This movie, though a comedy, offers a reflection on the concept of the neutral observer in anthropology. The researchers are sent to other people’s homes with instructions not to interact with them at all and yet come out with an understanding of their behaviour and how to make their lives better. Can someone not be affected by being observed? The movie raises this and other valid and serious points in a light and positive way. Sometimes it does so in a very obvious manner; whether that is good or not, it depends on your taste.

“…what the hell are we doing? We sit up there on our pedestals and think we understand everything.” – Green

We also get a criticism of 50’s Swedish society. The film takes a certain sarcastic stand on Swedes’ love for control and efficiency, which shows absurdly in Folke’s caricature of a boss. If you are not familiar with Scandinavia, I recommend this film if only to give you a small and comical glimpse into the dynamic and differences between Swedes and Norwegians.

There is no climax, no real drama in this movie. It feels like a very well acted theatre play, with good photography and settings. A subtle story about friendship and human connection; it’s funny but it won’t make you fall off your chair laughing. With barely any action and very little dialog, it manages not to be boring.

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