Wednesday, July 21, 2010

A Movie a Day, day 66: Terribly Happy

As we get acclimated to the flat, almost featureless landscape outside the dead-end Danish town of Skarrild at the beginning of Terribly Happy, an affectless narrator tells the tale of a cow that sank into the local bog. It seems the cow reappeared six months later and give birth to a calf with two heads, one of them human. The farmer kept the cow, though “everyone knows” that’s the wrong thing to do, and all the local cattle and women went insane, until the men of the town took things in hand and buried the cow in the bog for good.

That twisted little tale is an economical introduction to this rural town, where everyone knows everyone else’s business, there’s a right way to do everything—even hang up your wash—and whatever the townsfolk want to get rid of winds up in the bog. It’s also a good introduction to the movie, which maintains the same slightly absurdist tone throughout its streamlined, suspenseful, and always entertaining 90-minute run. Terribly Happy plays things almost straight (the movie is based on a novelization of a true story), but its perspective is just a little bit askew, like the low camera angles that mirror Robert Hansen’s sense of disorientation when he arrives in Skarrild. Read the rest on The House Next Door, Slant Magazine's blog.

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