The Domestic Horror
(Auto-translation by Babelfish)
Although it begins almost with an air of amiable comedy, it is not exempt of certain touches of surrealism and with a narration by a child who momentarily reminds us of the television series Cuéntame cómo pasó, immediately arises all the drama of this film, the abuses, the incest, the deceit. It is indeed a story of abuses without blows, without apparent violence, but buried, the violence of deceit, the emotional blackmail, the constant threat of a suicide that never comes. And there is something strange, because this mixture of the absurd and horror, of comedy and domestic tragedy, creates contradictions in the spectator who does not know whether to hate the paedophile and incestuous father or to feel sorry for a poor man. This is the same dilemma that all of the characters of this remarkable film face, Danish cinema removed from the classic form of the Dogma movement that lately seemed to dominate all Danish cinematography, although in its thematic core it is not distant from the excellent Celebration by Thomas Vinterberg. Nevertheless, in Celebration the adrenalin could be smelled from the beginning, harnessed possibly by the aesthetic principles of the Dogma, whereas here everything goes more slowly. In Vinterberg's film it was difficult to feel compassion for most of his prepotent characters, whereas here it is impossible not to see everyone as losers beyond salvation, losers whose only mistake was to be born in a nuclear family where it was assumed that the pater familias has the right to do as he pleases. And it is this which The Art of Crying - excellent title - brings attention to, another part is the lack of conscience which they have for the victims they are abusing, the absence of protests on the part of a mother who seems not to want to find out what happens in her own home, or even the fatality with which the chavales seem to accept their destiny provided the poor father does not begin to cry and threatens to commit suicide again. The Art of Crying elegantly combines its formal classicism with the courage of the denunciation of practices of patriarcal domination that are not exclusive to Denmark nor to the Seventies. It is a film that somehow camouflages the hardness of the subject by portraying the characters as more amiable, and it would be possible to be debated at length if this approach to the subject helps to disguise the gravity of the facts that it reflects, or, on the contrary, it emphasizes it. M.B.
compassion, grace and wit. Jonathan Holland, Variety
Emotionally devastating and astonishingly mature, this is a unique feature debut. Steve Gravestock, Toronto International Filmfestival
A young Scandinavian genius tackles Bergmanesque themes of family taboos and relationships with pathos, humor, and a loving eye. Chiseko Tanaka, Tokyo International Film Festival
Thursday, September 28, 2006
The Domestic Horror
Festival Daily - interview summary
ZABALTEGI- NEW DIRECTORS
KUNSTEN AT GRAEDE I KOR / THE ART OF CRYING
Innocence is Not Always Bliss
The young Peter Schønau Fog has presented his first film Kunsten at graede i kor (The Art of crying) based on the successful novel by Erling Jepsen. The script was adapted by Bo Hr. Hansen and according to Schønau they had to make numerous changes while maintaining the focus and emotional content of the book. He points out that the author told him that his film was a faithful reflection of the book when he saw it. It is set in a small village in Denmark in the 1970s and revolves around an eleven-year-old boy who accepts the violent conflictive situation he lives in as being perfectly normal. Despite being a really bleak story, the child’s innocence results in some humorous scenes. In any case, Schønau wants to make clear, “the subject of child abuse is extremely serious for us so it was a real challenge to tackle this subject with appropriate seriousness while enhancing it with a bit of humour”.
Saturday, September 23, 2006
KUNSTEN AT GRÆDE I KOR/THE ART OF CRYING,
- 27. sep. 21:30 Kursaal, 2. Original language with
Spanish subtitles, English electronic subtitles.
- 28. sep. 09:30. Principal. Only press and
accreditation-holders. Priority Press.Original language with Spanish subtitles,
English electronic subtitles.
- 28. sep. 12:00. Kursaal, 2. Original language with
Spanish subtitles, English electronic subtitles.
- 28. sep. 20:30. Antiguo-Berri, 4.
- 29. sep. 16:00. Príncipe, 7. Last
The Art of Crying has been invited to The 55th International Filmfestival Mannheim-Heidelberg.
Tuesday, September 19, 2006
A gem of a black comedy, 12 September 2006
Author: seraphyna84-1 from Ottawa, Canada
I had the privilege of watching this at its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Fest, and it's always great to discover new talent. Here, it's not just the discovery of Peter Schonau Fog, but also of the tremendous cast, especially young Jannik Lorenzen, who plays 11-year-old Allan to perfection with his cheeky bewilderment, and eventually with a heavy disappointment that accompanies his loss of innocence. The film reminds me of Schlondorff's The Tin Drum with its rather disturbing, yet comical theme of children growing up entirely too quickly, although The Art of Crying is, in my opinion, far more beautifully poignant as it is told through Allan's eyes.Henry (Jesper Asholt) is a milkman whose nightly suicide attempts and constant hysterics have driven his wife to taking sleeping pills every night to avoid him, and his son to university out of their sleepy rural village in Denmark. Henry's young son Allan (Lorenzen) adores him, and begins performing a series of bizarre acts in order to win his father's happiness, seeing nothing wrong with his father's manipulative actions and dysfunctional family dynamics.I enjoyed this portrayal of the tension between the rural and the urban, seen in Henry's interactions with his educated son Asger, his daughter Sanne's boyfriend the "moped rowdy" Per, and his neighbour the Buddes, who have introduced self-service at their rival grocery store. It's a compelling tale, grippingly suspenseful as you wait to see what Henry and Allan will do next, yet disturbingly funny as you watch Allan delight in the most unpleasant things (just as long as they make Henry happy). Strong performances all around, and a neat debut for Schonau Fog!
Riveting, if somewhat dark and disturbing movie. Incredible acting., 9 September 2006
Author: tdilkie from Canada
Watched the world premier at the Toronto Film Festival.You are drawn into this dark movie and cannot turn away. The performances by Jannik Lorenzen, Jesper Asholt and Julie Kolbeck are spellbinding. The movie is shown from the point of view of 10 year old Allan (Jannik), giving a very unique perspective on this messed up family. Director Peter Schønau Fog really pulls this together.Jannik Lorenzen is an incredible actor. This was his debut film, and I think that he's is equal most other child actors today. I really hope to see him in more films.Jesper Asholt plays a challenging role, the evil and disturbed father, with incredible conviction.The cinematography and directing are first rate, this is not a low budget or low quality film.Apparently based on the life of the book author, which is pretty disturbing too.It's too bad this Danish movie (with English subtitles) will be unavailable to most North American's...
"The Art of Crying," as its name suggests, also toys with issues of grief. An occasionally shocking tale of a hugely dysfunctional family, the film revolves around a highly depressive father, who uses his overwhelming self-pity and threats of suicide to control and abuse his children. When the youngest boy - a cute kid whose own coming-of-age is the story's central spine -- discovers his father cheers up when giving eulogies, he welcomes the death of neighbors and family members. With certain echoes of Todd Solondz's "Happiness" by way of Scandinavia, Fog's script and direction is remarkable for its deft balance of comedy and tragedy.
Art of Crying a Minor Masterpiece
THE ART OF CRYING was my second film at the Toronto International Film Festival. I’ve seen three, seven to go. I want to start with this one because it absolutely blew me away. It’s perhaps an unfair comparison, but afterwards I really felt like watching the Lasse Hallstrom film, MY LIFE AS A DOG. Peter Schonau Fog’s first feature has a darker subject matter and doesn’t have the same moments of pure joy the Hallstrom film gave us, but like MY LIFE AS A DOG, THE ART OF CRYING feels true and honest to the viewer. We are given a look at life inside the home of a rural Danish family during the seventies. A family where life has gone horribly wrong. It begins at a place we all have been in one way or another. Big brother is coming home from the university for a weekend. There are hugs and kisses and good natured teasing. During dinner Mom fusses over him. And then the movie turns. Dad, played brilliantly by vetern Dane Jesper Asholt, rips into his son for holding his fork in his left hand. The son tells his dad this is how it’s done in the rest of the world, fork in left hand, knife in right. Around the table everyone has only their fork in hand, in their right. Dad doesn’t let it go at this and accuses him of being fancy, then begins complaining that he wasn’t allowed an education. It is not this that frightens us, but how quiet the rest of the family becomes. Living in foxholes they have learned to keep their heads down.
There are a few small stolen moments of bliss for the two children, both first time actors to my knowledge, both wonderful to watch. The movie is in fact told largely from the point of view of the boy, played by Jannik Lorenzen. He is young, and younger than he would be today in a world of the internet and television. He doesn’t know, not at the beginning, even what his life is about. At times I felt angry with this little boy, how can you not know. But that’s the point, he doesn’t. He learns, the hard way. The girl, who looked much older in her fancy gown at the premiere made my heart hurt, old enough to know and understand, but not old enough to know what to do about it, Julie Kolbech is an actress to watch in the coming years.
Not the easiest film to watch because of it’s honesty and realism. This is a brilliant beginning for a director who will surely have a long and respected career. Bravo! Rated r, this gets 8* out of 10.
Notes from a Festival: Day Four
My back hurts, my legs are tingling. Seven heavy duty movies in four days, and really, three days since the first was nine pm Friday, and the seventh three pm monday. I ran into an old friend, he works for the festival and has worked the Tribecca, Sundance, and other smaller festivals. He’s up to 37 films already. He works a couple each morning, then they run movies all night for the industry guys and he sits and watches those. I mentioned how much I liked ART OF CRYING and his face got all funny. Like a junkie he speeded off five better movies and how that one was missing something. I agreed, noting it was a first film. My friends hit a little festival fever. He’s seeing so many movies so quickly that he’s not giving them time to sink in. ART OF CRYING is a very subtle film that takes a lot of effort to watch. You have to try and imagine what it would be like to be a child growing up in rural Denmark in the 70’s. As luck would have it I grew up in rural Northern Ontario in the 1970’s. Two channels on a black and white television. I didn’t know a lot about a lot of things. As soon as I remembered this a lot of the film made sense to me. That took some effort on my part. Effort I wouldn’t have energy to give if it had been my 20th movie in three days.
FESTIVAL DAILY(editor's picks):
THE PLEASURES OF CRYING
The Art of Crying is an affectionate yet toxic recreation of small-town Denmark in the early seventies. Amid the flowing blond locks and "moped rowdies" lies a brazenly despicable father: Henry (Jesper Asholt), a wretched, sour milkman. His shtick is to threaten suicide anytime he requires attention or does not get his way. He spends untold nights curled up brawling on the couch nearly inconsolable. A petty and small-minded instigator, he is the worst kind of manipulator. Everything is about him and his theatrical suffering. Needless to say, his impish young son, Allan (Jannik Lorenzen), inherits a skewed moral sense of the world, as does his doe-eyed, damaged teenaged daughter, Sanne (Julie Kolbeck).
What is so fascinating about The Art of Crying is that it presents a world in which laughter is discouraged and tears are rewarded, where Henry can achieve stature in Allan\'s eyes by sobbing paroxysms of dispair with eulogies. Divided into chapters named for characters - who each endure a trauma of sort (tearfully, of cource) - and elevated by phenomenal performances, Peter Schønau Fog\'s first feature film is a vivid portrait of a provincial family that has raised emotional contrivance to an art form. JD
The Art of Crying
Next up for me was a Danish film called THE ART OF CRYING, and black comedy and family tragedy about child abuse. Using the word comedy may cause you to think that a serious subject was being trivialized, but that was not the case here. CRYING concerns a family whose eldest son has escaped to university while 14 year old daughter Sanne and 10 year old son Allan are left unprotected by their mother from the most insecure and manipulative father you ever seen, but can unfortunately believe. The comedy comes from seeing all of this through the eyes of the 10 year old who initially misunderstands what’s happening about him. As Allan starts to put the pieces together, the comedy begins to give way to tragedy, while never completely succumbing to it: Allan’s deeply desired hope for a normal life keeps utter calamity at bay. You won’t know the names of the people involved here, but all of the work is top notch and CRYING will likely launch some careers. Check out the credits on the CRYING page at bell.ca/filmfest if you’d like to know more.
THE ART OF CRYING
DISC D: Peter Schønau Fog w/ Jannik Lorenzen, Jesper Asholt. Denmark. 106 min. Saturday, September 9, 6 PM PARAMOUNT 3; Monday, September 11, 3:15 PM CUMBERLAND 2; Friday, September 15, 4:45 PM VARSITY 5 Rating: NNN
An unusual and disturbing story about a young boy's coming of age is offset by some surprisingly well-placed moments of dark humour.
Poor little Allan (Lorenzen) thinks the only thing wrong with his family is that Dad (Asholt) cries every night, threatening to kill himself. What Allan doesn't realize is that the way his father gets cheered up is the real issue.
A showcase for everyone involved, this is an ideal Discovery selection. Lorenzen proves he has talent beyond his years, Hanne Hedelund has a poignant turn as the frustrated mother, and Fog's first feature establishes him as a kind of Danish Todd Solondz, able to wring laughter out of the most unsettling and truthful scenes.
Reviewed by: Lori Fireman
The Art of Crying (Four stars)
w/ Jannik Lorenzen, Jesper Asholt
Sep 9, 6pm, Paramount; Sep 11, 3:15pm, Cumberland; Sep 15, 4:45pm, Varsity
Despite its horrific scenes of familial dysfunction, The Art of Crying is often hysterically funny. Of course, the laughs are of the dark and bitter variety, a Danish specialty. An 11-year-old living with his family in a small town in the early ’70s, Allan (Jannik Lorenzen) is far too admiring of his milkman father Henry (Jesper Asholt), an egocentric monster who tyrannizes his family with his volatile moods and pathetic self-pity. Eschewing the clichés of cinema’s countless bad dads, Asholt and first-time director Peter Schonau Fog create a patriarch who’s plausibly awful, comically absurd and thoroughly memorable. JA
Run Time 106 mins.
Director Peter Schønau Fog
Stars given in Eye Weekly
Friday, September 01, 2006
Toronto Film Festival: Description
The Art of Crying
(Kunsten at græde i kor)
Director: Peter Schønau Fog
Time: 106 minutes
Film Types: Colour/35mm
Saturday, September 09 6:00 PM PARAMOUNT 3
Monday, September 11 3:15 PM CUMBERLAND 2
Friday, September 15 4:45 PM VARSITY 5
Production Company : Final Cut Productions ApS
Foreign Sales Agent : AB Svensk Filmindustri
Producer: Thomas Stenderup
Screenplay: Bo hr. Hansen, based on the novel by Erling Jepsen
Cinematographer: Harald Gunnar Paalgard
Editor: Anne Østerud
Production Designer: Søren Krag Sørensen
Sound: Henry John Michaelsen, Peter Schultz
Music: Karsten Fundal
Principal Cast: Jannik Lorenzen, Jesper Asholt, Julie Kolbeck, Hanne Hedelund, Thomas Knuth-Winterfeldt
Peter Schønau Fog's intense and unsettling The Art of Crying is a domestic drama-cum-horror movie, based on the celebrated novel by the Danish writer Erling Jepsen. The film follows precocious, eleven-year-old Allan ( Jannik Lorenzen), who is trying desperately to keep his dysfunctional, rural family together during the social upheavals of the early seventies.
Allan reveres his father, Henry (Jesper Asholt), the local milkman, and can't understand why others don't feel the same way. His family life is so twisted he thinks it's perfectly normal to stay awake all night dealing with his father's hysterics and suicidal threats. Allan's older brother left town several years ago, and his mother gave up long before that, relying on sleeping pills to escape Henry's tantrums.
Allan is obsessed with a rival family, whom he considers foolish white trash - until they start taking away Henry's customers. He is frustrated that his mother doesn't take his father's complaints seriously, and is perplexed by the increasingly rebellious and bizarre behaviour of his sister, Sanne ( Julie Kolbeck). Incapable of understanding what's going on and heavily influenced by his father, Allan commits appalling acts, unaware of their import.
While Schønau Fog uses his powerfully austere style (the early scenes have an almost tableau-like feel) to heighten the sense of entrapment, he also leavens the proceedings with comedy, though it's very much of the dark and sinister variety. The few extended family get-togethers are horrific and comic. No villain could be more publicly unimposing than Henry, who is virtually anonymous to the townspeople - or more tyrannical at home, where his nightly tirades terrorize everyone.
The Art of Crying chillingly dramatizes the gap between the innocent idealism of childhood beliefs and the starker reality of adulthood. Emotionally devastating and astonishingly mature, this is a unique feature debut.
- Steve Gravestock
Peter Schønau Fog was born on the island of Fanø, Denmark and studied filmmaking at the Film and Television School of the Academy of Performing Arts (FAMU) in Prague and the National Film School of Denmark. He has directed numerous short films, including Little Man (99), which won several international awards. The Art of Crying (06) is his first feature film.
Associated with European Film Promotion,
an initiative supported by the
European Union’s MEDIA Programme.
Tokyo Film Festival: Description of the film.
The Art of Crying
Kunsten at graede i kor
2006 / Color / 106min. / 35mm / Danish
Here comes a rookie director with formidable talent! A young Scandinavian genius tackles Bergmanesque themes of family taboos and relationships with pathos, humor, and a loving eye.
Director: Peter Schonau Fog
Producer: Thomas Stenderup
Cast: Jesper Asholt / Hanne Hedelund / Jannik Lorenzen / Julie Kolbech
Danish films stole the spotlight at both Berlin and Cannes this year. Danish filmmakers boldly take on the challenges of addressing themes of loneliness and misery and taboos. This film depicts life in South Jutland in the 1970s through the eyes of an 11-year-old boy. Through him, we learn about the personalities, idiosyncrasies, and vices of his family, relatives, and neighbors. Bespectacled Allan adores his timid, unstable father. His father is a master at reciting eulogies, capable of bringing tears to everyone at a funeral. It is at such moments that his father appears the happiest. This ambitious film cuts to the heart of human malice against a backdrop of beautiful Scandinavian scenery. Rather than being an ironic commentary on life, however, the building 35-year-old director insists that the film, with its understated sence of humor, will make you smile and cry.
Interview with director Peter Schønau Fog
Child molestation is at the heart of Peter Schønau Fog’s alarming first film "The Art of Crying", which dares to use humour to tell a serious story.
By Christian Monggaard
Published in FILM #50, May 2006
""The Art of Crying" is about how hard life can be when all the red lights of human interrelations are being run," the director says. Based on a tragicomic novel by the Danish author Erling Jepsen, the film describes the frankly bizarre family circumstances of 11-year-old Allan (Jannik Lorenzen).
Allan’s unstable father (Jesper Asholt) is wont to threaten suicide and lie on the living-room couch and cry when things don’t go his way. Often, they don’t. And when that happens, only Allan’s 14-year-old sister, Sanne (Julie Kolbech), can comfort their father by getting down next to him on the couch. Allan’s older brother (Thomas Knuth-Winterfeldt) has left home to study in another town and their mother (Hanne Hedelund) turns a blind eye to what is going on.
Then comes the day when Sanne refuses to comfort her father any longer and responsibility for the old man’s wellbeing falls to Allan, the film’s narrator. Allan tries to do right by everyone in his family, but that becomes increasingly hard as his uncertainty grows about who is right. One thing he does know is that his father has a special gift for making people cry when he gives his trademark eulogies at funerals. It’s the only thing that cheers him up, and the boy vows to make sure his father will always have enough funerals to speak at.
FROM A CHILD’S PERSPECTIVE
"I think it’s a very important story," Peter Schønau Fog says. "It’s essential to share with the world the physical and mental abuse these children are subjected to. The shifting of responsibility from parents to children that we witness in this family is in many ways a deeply taboo subject."
In "The Art of Crying", Schønau Fog sets out to raise a lot of questions that are not otherwise asked because people are afraid of the answers. "The film is told from inside the family, from the perspective of the children," he says.
"Jumping off from there, the film looks at what goes on in a family to make it dysfunctional. What psychological mechanisms are put into motion? How do these children end up like that? How do the father and mother end up the way they do? How do the rest of the family and society at large deal with it? How can things go that wrong?"
Part of the answer lies in the fact that incest is still such a big taboo, Schønau Fog contends. Because we are afraid to discuss the subject, it doesn’t matter that we all agree that we deplore it. We think of parents who molest their children as inhuman, monsters – and that prevents us from understanding how incest happens.
"Describing someone as a monster is no way to find out how it happens," the director says. "What is it inside a person that takes them there? If something offers no glimmer of human recognition, it becomes too easy to dismiss. And too easy to turn a blind eye to when it happens in your own life."
SINCERITY AND HUMOUR
Schønau Fog’s film sustains the cheerful-mournful tone of Jepsen’s novel. In fact, that tone was what novel and thought about turning it into a movie. "There is a twist to the story that makes it possible to tell in a way that doesn’t blare everything out as loudly as you otherwise might have liked, considering how much is behind it," Schønau Fog says.
"The Art of Crying" is actually a very funny movie. "So it speaks to people," the director says. "But it’s not about ridiculing the film’s subject. It’s about telling the story with a smile – smiling through tears, as they say. I like to think I’m not doing it in that nineties, ironic way. The film is more funny than ironic, really, and the mix of sincerity and humour was challenging in terms of setting a tone for the film. I didn’t want it to be ironic or dumbed down or haha-funny or superficial or ludicrous."
"At one point when I made "Lille mænsk", my graduate film at the National Film School, I had a script that was actually very funny. But people shot it down, because they thought it was bad taste to let the protagonist, who is personally responsible for the death of another person, keep his humorous attitude to life. Jepsen’s book deals with some of the worst family horrors imaginable, using humour. I hope this doesn’t sound cold-hearted, but in that sense "The Art of Crying" is a shot at something I didn’t pull off in my graduate film."
CLOSING ONE EYE
It’s been seven years since the 35-year-old director graduated from Denmark’s National Film School (incidentally, he was in the same graduating class as two other first-time filmmakers in 2006: Pernille Fischer Christensen, who won a Silver Bear in Berlin in February for "A Soap", and Kenneth Kainz, whose "Pure Hearts" opens soon).
There are several reasons why it took Schønau Fog so long to arrive at his directorial debut. First, he found himself somewhat paralyzed by the amount of attraction his student film generated both in Denmark and abroad. Then, it took him a long time to adapt "The Art of Crying". He knocked around the screenplay for a year and a half with Gert Duve Skovlund before hooking up with Bo hr. Hansen, who wrote the final script.
"I had no ambition simply to illustrate Erling Jepsen’s book," Schønau Fog says. He first read "The Art of Crying" four years ago. "I was strongly affected by, and wanted to sustain, Jepsen’s message and the unique voice he uses to tell his story. The book is about a lot of other things other than what I picked out for the film, but when you adapt a book you have to close one eye and stick a finger in one ear in order to retell it your way. You have to make the material your own. You then hope people who know the book don’t find your version of it too deaf and blind."
In the middle of the nineties, before he got into the National Film School of Denmark, Schønau Fog attended film school in the Czech Republic. When people asked him back then why he wanted to make movies, he would joke and say it was his "perversion." He now says, "I made pictures out of a desire to make pictures. Sometimes that was the only reason for making a picture a certain way – or telling a story a certain way, for that matter. Because I wanted to. Exposing others to your desires is basically perverse, isn’t it?"
All that changed when the Czech film school exposed him to a series of films that had been unavailable since the sixties because of communist censorship. "We were 10 students and an interpreter in the room and she cried through every single film – it was that powerful to her."
The students had the pleasure of watching Milos Forman’s A Blond in Love (1965) and other films that looked at the world from the perspective of their characters. "It made me aware of how amazing it can be to see people without blue smoke and long tracking shots and what the hell ever else was going on at the time in French postmodern films," Schønau Fog says.
"I realized that these films spoke to me much more. The human richness in ‘God, life is like that, too!’ I like science fiction, and I love Blade Runner, but what really hits me are films that open my human rather than my thrill-seeking universe. Those Czech films did that, and the interpreter crying probably didn’t hurt, either. So the human content becomes very important to me and that prolongs my process," the director says.
"The challenge in "The Art of Crying" was to maintain the story’s message without forcing it down people’s throats," Schønau Fog says. "If you want to make a movie with a message, the easiest thing to do is write the message on a sign and put it in front of the camera. But it’s a long way from that to a film narrative that is experienced through the people in the story."