Ti kniver i hjertet
Marius Holst, 1995, Norway
Although the US packaging tries to sell this “in the tradition of My Life as a Dog”, this is in fact more akin to darker strains of ‘The Northeners’, or even ‘The Slingshot’. As pastiche of moods and genre trappings, including rites-of-passage, mystery, domestic tragedy; complete with cellar secrets, dangerous staircases, bogeymen caretakers, enigmatic delinquent strangers, stolen cars and river corpses. Most of these are in fact false leads, of which the opening narration and uplifting song are just the first; and although the hints of peripheral horror are never consummated, ‘Cross My Heart and Hope to Die’ is at pains to estrange and alienate its young protagonist from his peers and family, and to inflict near irreparable damage to his relations to both. Here is loneliness and the mundane horror of the adult world.
The set-up is typical: it’s the 1960s and young Otto (Martin Dahl Garfalk) is at a loose end for summer, being an outcast from his peers. And then… Moderate and whimsical as the tone might seem, like Otto it is unlikely that any audience will walk away uplifted. It culminates in a mash of near hopes and irresolution. It is not always successful, moving from the sunny pranks and smiling face of Otto to the muted finale, but it possesses flashes of brilliance, of which perhaps most hypnotic is Otto’s decent into a dream-like near-surreal costume party, only to burst the bubble with his first proper sexually charged indiscretion. Or even a trip to a train station that inexplicably becomes emotionally charged with rain and alienation. Otto’s world is packed with red herrings; his attempts to join his peers are scuppered by his ability to always do the wrong thing; his childishness is dealt merciless blows, and if he ends the film more adult, this is no comfort. Fear of the dark, blind piano tuners and games of blind-man’s-bluff accompany the quasi-voyearism subtext, but if this is about the seeing the truth ~ don’t always trust what you see, he is predictably told ~ then it is hard to tell exactly what the truth amounts to. Then the worst happens, but not necessarily the way you think. It is true that families can fracture and reunite, that innocence is not enough and will not survive and that Otto’s secrets really don’t amount to much. But if there really is no answer, the discovery of the questions here remains an intriguing and occasionally baffling mood-piece where the threads of growing up do not necessarily lead to answers.