DENNIS SCHWARTZ 
IS THERE ANY GOOD 
IN SAYING 
EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?

 
HOUSE OF ANGELS (ÄNGLAGÅRD) (director: Colin Nutley; screenwriter: Susan Falck; cinematographer: Jens Fischer; editor: Perry Schaffer; music: Bjorn Isfalt; cast: Helena Bergstrom (Fanny Zander), Rikard Wolff (Zac), Sven Wollter (Axel Flogfält), Viveka Seldahl (Ruth Flogfält), Reine Brynolfsson (Henning Collmer, vicar), Per Oscarsson (Erik Zander), Ernst Günther (Gottfrid Pettersson), Tord Peterson (Ivar Pettersson), Ing-Marie Carlsson (Eva Ågren), Jan Mybrand (Per-Ove Ågren), Peter Andersson (Ragnar Zetterberg), Jakob Eklund (Morten Flogfält); Runtime: 119; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Lars Jonsson/Lars Dahlquist; Sony Pictures Classics; 1992-Sweden/Denmark/Norway-in Swedish with English subtitles)

 
"The mildly enjoyable film tells of the bias in a rural farm community to newcomers from the city."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A whimsical comedy with a sharp moral lesson by British expatriate Colin Nutley ("Black Jack"/"Gossip"), who is working in Sweden. The mildly enjoyable film tells of the bias in a rural farm community to newcomers from the city over a culture clash. Following the lead of many such recent feel-good comedies, the unnamed village of around two hundred has its share of eccentrics, gossipers and secret affairs.

When elderly eccentric beret wearing hermit landowner Erik Zander (Per Oscarsson) dies accidentally when run over while riding his bicycle by the vicor, Hennings (Reine Brynolfsson), the village is surprised that the wealthy man left Angel's Farm, his vast 18th century property, to his thirty-year-old granddaughter Fanny Zander (Helena Bergstrom)--someone no one knew ever existed. Fanny had never met her grandfather; Fanny's mom Alice died at eleven and never spoke of him.

On the day of the funeral Fanny arrives from her home in Berlin dressed in black leather on the back of her pony-tailed, earring wearing, black leather-clad bisexual boyfriend Zac's (Rikard Wolff) Harley Davidson motorcycle. The couple are traveling entertainers in clubs and hedonistically live like free-spirits in contrast to the staid life of the conservative farmers in the village. 

Neighboring lumber mill owner Axel Flogfält (Sven Wollter), a dense but cunning man, couldn't wait for Erik to die so he could buy the property for timber. But Fanny, even though she doesn't fit in, decides not to sell. This upsets Axel's clan. Axel takes his anger out on the lawyer for Erik, Ragnar Zetterberg (Peter Andersson), who goes out of his way to help the strangers.

Fanny invites two timid elderly brothers, Gottfrid and Ivar Pettersson (Ernst Günther & Tord Peterson), to her house for coffee and discovers they haven't been in the house for thirty years. 

Nutley tries to keep a fragile balance between sentiment and goofing around, but that's tough to do when secrets get revealed, such as who is Fanny's father, and the film ambles along from one encounter to another showing each side has an agenda. The outsiders are closely watched; the men find Fanny attractive and accept her, but the women think of her as a slut and a foreigner. The villagers are fearful of the unknown and are worried that the avant-garde outsiders will turn the farm into a brothel and wreck their conventional lives. Since the social activities of the community revolve around the church, the vicar inspires his flock not to be narrow-minded by using in his sermons Jesus as an example of how to treat all people. It then comes a matter of accepting the always smiling Fanny and the sometimes grinning Zac as non-threatening figures, even though their good cheer seems to have a mocking tone to it. 

The offbeat film did a big box office in Sweden; it's in the same mold as those classic comedies from Britain's Ealing studio made during the 1950s. Being contemporary means some nudity can be added to the mix, making it a little more daring but not enough to scare away its targeted middlebrow audience. 

REVIEWED ON 1/29/2007        GRADE: C+

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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