“WWhat’s the best thing about Norway? asks the main character of this intriguing film from Norwegian screenwriter and director Anders Emblem. Her friend replies: “Mountains? A-ha? To which the original speaker responds that she was actually thinking more about things like the welfare state. It’s a quibbling, playful and thoughtful exchange, which also seems to coincide with hesitant sexual advances, and it’s very characteristic of this elegant, seriocomic, beautifully shot piece of slow-moving cinema, with excellent catplay and quirky touches. by Murakami.
Asta (Amalie Ibsen Jensen) is a young woman who lives with Live (Maria Agwumaro) in a spacious apartment in the Norwegian port city of Ålesund, opposite an abandoned building that Asta is often seen staring pensively at. Live is a carpenter specializing in the repair of chairs. She also likes to play the electric organ that the owner left in the attic. In what appears to be a lull in his personal and professional life, Asta applies to the local newspaper, Sunnmørsposten, for a temporary shift job. After working through stories about fan dissatisfaction with the local football team and greedy developers threatening to tear down the Art Nouveau architecture the city is famous for, Asta stumbles upon a story that means something to her: an asylum seeker named Aslan who was forcibly repatriated. She sets out to find out more about him and seems reasonably pleased with the resulting somber article about the troubled conscience of the Norwegians – although the question of Aslan’s whereabouts now is another matter.
In fact, both Asta (and Live) may be more distracted by the issue of Asta’s depression and possible self-harm. Everything we see on screen: all the slow shots that build up, the angular visual compositions, all the bright and purifying tableaux of the city and its steep picturesque lanes, the soft shots of the cat, the inquiring diary and the chairs…can just be a moving activity. It may just be Asta’s healing – or his reluctance to heal. And this healing also plays a part in Live seeming to be in love with Asta.
And the emptiness of the city is itself striking. The pandemic is not mentioned and no one wears a mask. But I wonder if Emblem hasn’t adopted a sort of lockdown aesthetic for its film, a deliberate dreamlike emptiness. A Human Position is a question mark of a film with an elusive tone, happy and sad. It lingered in my mind.