• Naboer



    Released by: Nordisk Film
    Released on: 12/10/2005
    Director: Pål Sletaune
    Cast: Kristoffer Joner, Cecilie A. Mosli, Julia Schacht, Anna Bache-Wiig, Michael Nyqvist
    Year: 2005
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    The Movie:

    Having recently played at a few international film festivals in the last year or so, Pål Sletaune’s Naboer (which in Norwegian means neighbor), also known as Next Door, is a very effective and at times intensely disturbing thriller which hinges itself on what is, at its core, a very simple storyline.

    John (Kristoffer Joner, a very popular mainstream actor in Norway) has just split up with his girlfriend, Ingrid (Anna Bache-Wiig), who arrives unannounced at his apartment with her new boyfriend Ake (Michael Nyqvist) in tow so that she can collect a few things that she left behind. The former lovers squabble and finally Ingrid leaves and as John is left reeling from all of this he notices Anne (Cecilie Mosli), the pretty girl who has recently moved in next door. Oddly enough, John has never noticed her before and he’s surprised to find out, once they start talking, that she lives with her equally foxy ‘sister’, Kim (stage actress Julia Schacht in her film debut) and that they’ve heard the entire soap opera that has been his life recently play out thanks to some poorly insulted adjoining walls.

    As John gets to know the girls a little better, Anne asks him to watch over Kim while she runs out for a while to take care of some business. It seems that whoever lived in John’s apartment before had his way with Kim and so she doesn’t like to be left alone so much. John obliges, and before you know it he and Kim are in bed together having some seriously rough sex and exchanging closed fisted blows to the face with one another. At this, the turning point in what had been up until now rather pedestrian, John’s world is pulled into that of his neighbors and his life will never be the same again.

    Borrowing heavily from Roman Polanski’s earlier suspense films, The Tenant primarily, with very hefty doses of Alfred Hitchcock (Pål Sletaune’s favorite director and biggest influence) thrown in for good measure, Naboer is simultaneously creepy, sexy, and darkly comic – in short, it’s a really entertaining film with equal parts art house style and exploitative elements that make for an effective and weird movie. While if you pay close attention you’ll know very early on that something is very, very wrong with John’s new friends, it’s never the less a whole lot of fun watching him figure it all out for himself and thanks to some genuinely excellent performances from all involved, it’s easy to overlook whatever shortcomings are present in the storyline itself. In addition to the acting, the movie also benefits from some truly excellent set design that further adds to the effective foreshadowing used throughout the movie. We know as we follow John into the apartment next door that something is off, you can tell by the way that they’ve decorated the place and by the mood that the girls have set - their apartment is just flat out creepy.

    While those put off by the coupling of graphic sex and even more graphic violence in the aforementioned love scene between John and Kim might have a hard time with the movie, those not put off by the idea of that genuinely shocking (and, as creepy as it is, genuinely sexy) moment in the film should find in Naboer and slick, creepy film (interestingly enough, Naboer is the first Norwegian film to be awarded the ‘18’ rating in seventeen years). At only seventy-five minutes in length it is definitely on the short side for a feature but what that amounts to is that Pål Sletaune, who also wrote the movie, doesn’t waste any of his screen time. It builds slowly at first, but it builds nonetheless and once it’s moving it absolutely does not let up.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    The anamorphic 2.35.1 transfer is sharp despite some mild compression artifacts which crop up during some of the darker spots and which are apparent in some of the shadows in the movie. Flesh tones look good, detail is fine in both the foreground and the background of the film and color reproduction is strong throughout. Edge enhancement is present a few times but never problematic, the same can be said about aliasing, but overall, Naboer looks quite good on DVD.

    Presented in its native language with optional subtitles in a few different languages including English, Naboer sounds great on DVD and offers viewers a choice of surround sound tracks in Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1 formats. The score from Simon Boswell is wonderfully evocative and really sounds quite good here, always enhancing the action and never burying it. Dialogue is clean and clear and free of any hiss or distortion and the levels are properly balanced throughout. The DTS track, as you’d expect, has marginally better bass, otherwise the differences between the two options are negligible.

    While none of the extras have any English subtitles (in the interesting of non-disclosure this reviewer had a Norwegian friend elaborate for this section of the review!), those who speak Norwegian are in for a treat as there is a lot of supplemental material on this disc. First up is a commentary with star Kristoffer Joner and director Pål Sletaune in which they discuss some of the characters in a fair bit of detail, particularly that of Åke and what happens to him towards the end of the movie. Sletaune isn’t afraid to point out similarities between Naboer and other films that influenced it and he and Joner seem to be enjoying themselves on this track. After that commentary track we find a ‘Behind the Scenes’ segment.

    From there we’re treated to interview with stars Cecilie Mosley and Julia Schacht in which they discuss character motivation and how the story was essentially built around their two characters, and then a second interview with director Pål Sletaune and production designer Jack Van Domburg which covers the inspiration for the film as well as the shooting locations. Also included are a handful of deleted scenes with an optional director’s commentary track wherein Sletaune tells why the scenes were cut (the majority were for pacing reasons while a few were taken out as he felt they were just too obvious).

    Rounding out the extra features is a selection of storyboard artwork and the film’s original theatrical trailer.

    The Final Word:

    While things are a little too easy to figure out for those seasoned in the ‘sexy thriller’ genre, Naboer is never the less a very effective and tense exercise in suspense. Performances are strong, the ladies look great, the climax delivers and the atmosphere is nice and thick. The Norwegian disc looks good and sounds even better – a shame the supplements are only available in their native language. This one is well worth a look for cult movie fans or those who just enjoy a good, creepy movie. Expect to see a domestic release sooner rather than later.