Norwegian painter Edvard Munch (1863–1944) is best-known for The Scream (1893), his iconic Expressionist masterpiece of a person, palms on cheeks, uttering what can solely described as a disturbing chill of misery, and that has been endlessly parodied within the a long time since. But in Henrik Martin Dahlsbakken’s new movie, Munch, which opened the 2023 International Film Festival Rotterdam as an out-of-competition screening, the work barely ever comes up within the 105-minute, Norwegian-language biopic. It’s quite refreshing.
To encapsulate the artist’s 80-year life, Dahlsbakken has made a number of attention-grabbing casting decisions. Four actors embody the assorted intervals of Munch’s life: Alfred Ekker Strande (at 21), Mattis Herman Nyquist (30), Ola G. Furuseth (45), and Anne Krigsvoll (80). Interestingly, Dahlsbakken has additionally solid a lady, Lisa Carlehed, to play Swedish author August Strindberg, who Munch met in Berlin. In one scene, shot in what seems to be like a modern-day rave, Carlehed had a mustache drawn on her face, including to the farce.
If Strande and his pet canine eyes pretend heartbreak to perfection, Nyquist’s efficiency climaxes in a stuttering monologue in regards to the very which means of existence: “It should be our mission to [defend our beliefs] or else just lie down and die.” Furuseth provides a misplaced, but very charismatic Munch, about to give up to despair, whereas Krigsvoll’s convincing transformation into Munch on the finish of his life couldn’t have been smoother. Not solely is she unrecognizable however she manages to subtly flip a infamous misanthrope right into a touching character.
Munch doesn’t current a linear timeline to the artist’s biography, which at first is usually a bit jarring for viewers who don’t know a lot about Munch—or fairly enjoyable for these accustomed to his life and profession as they attempt to guess when and the place the plot takes place. Rather, viewers journey to completely different cities—Ekely (close to Oslo),Copenhagen, Åsgårdstrand, Berlin—and the plot ebbs and flows between these locales and Munch’s completely different portrayers. The blurring of timelines and genders is supposed to convey the confusion that Munch felt, by his personal admission, all through his life.
With that intriguing strategy, the film opens with the 80-year-old Munch, dealing with his easel. Upon listening to a canine barking outdoors, he rushes downstairs, solely to see a few German troopers standing on the gate. (Germany had invaded Norway in 1940, roughly three years prior, and Munch lived in concern of his works being confiscated by the Nazis.) The sudden, and presumably undesirable, visitors invite themselves in, and begin asking questions as they give the impression of being round: “How much are these? Are you a famous artist? You should make sculptures.” As the digital camera scans the room, an upside-down model of the painter’s famed Madonna (1894) turns up amongst different canvases. “Sculpture is not for me,” he replies; well-known he might have been, however all he tells the troopers is that his work don’t promote in addition to they used to.
It’s apparent that this scene is establishing a flashback to Munch’s earlier days. Naturally, the subsequent scene transports Munch (Furuseth, the 40-year-old model) to Copenhagen, the place he’s writing, smoking, and ingesting himself away in a café. Once residence, he begins listening to voices and begins crawling on the ground. Is he merely hungover—or is there one thing else at play? There’s silence because the display screen cuts to black.
Munch wakes up in a hospital in close by Frederiksberg, the place he stays from 1908–09 and meets Professor Daniel Jacobson (Jesper Christensen), who turns into the topic of a number of drawings and work. This interval of Munch’s life was filmed in black and white and in a sq. format, clearly with the intention to create the claustrophobic ambiance the artist seemingly skilled throughout his keep.
As Munch wakes up one morning, the sound of roaring practice begins to play, because the movie returns to the preliminary 16:9 format, now with scenes are bathed in gentle. A red-haired Munch with angelic options (Strande) daydreams on a practice to Åsgårdstrand, south of Oslo and the placement of one in every of Munch’s best-preserved properties. There he’s, portray within the open air, not the fjord that unravels earlier than him however a tough model of Sick Child, first begun in 1885. “You are not quite there yet but I like the colors,” a passerby remarks.
Munch quickly meets his old flame and assured Mrs. Thaulow (Thea Lambrechts Vaulen). “I like melancholy,” he tells her—that’s the title (with a capital M) of the portray, exhibiting a person pensively looking at an unnaturally coloured shoreline, that he featured on the essential 1891 Autumn Exhibition in Oslo. His travels to Paris, the place he would see the works of the period’s avant-garde that might finally show influential on his fashion, are oddly considerably elided. When requested in regards to the journey, he dodges the query, saying “It was nice. There is not much more to say.”
The last cease: Berlin. Not the late-Nineteenth century Berlin that Munch knew, however a Berlin seemingly nearer to our time. Here, Munch (Nyquist) is touching up work in a confined white dice, like one you may now see in any main gallery district. A minute later he’s advised of the choice to close down his first solo present. (Dahlsbakken is alluding right here, with out mentioning it, to the 1892 “Munch Affair,” wherein an exhibition of the artist’s was closed after per week after it provoked controversy.) Someone retains calling him—on an old-school cellular phone, no much less! Were folks strolling round with cellphones at the moment? It’s an intentional anachronism. As gratuitous as it could appear, this temporal hole does the trick—anybody can relate to Munch’s frustration. The feeling is common, Dahlsbakken would have you ever to imagine, nonetheless heavy-handedly.
As the film progresses into the latter two thirds, we hold leaping backwards and forwards to these time-spaces at random. One minute you might be in Berlin, the subsequent, fairly actually, in Copenhagen. Scenes develop shorter and shorter to boost the sensation of timelessness—to the purpose the place there isn’t any (chrono)logical order. Most timeline transitions are delicate: previous Munch begins coughing, triggering a dialog 40 years earlier about his psychological well being with Jacobson. “My soul is like two wild birds that tear in different directions,” the painter says. “Geniuses suffer from a spiritual imbalance which might be misconstrued with insanity,” the psychiatrist replies. The picture could also be crisply black and white; the professional’s opinion comes off a quite muddy gray.
Other methods, verging on gimmicks, are used to mix the dream and actual worlds collectively. In the Copenhagen segments views from excessive and low-angle pictures alternate and voices sound dampened to convey a sensation of dizziness. When he tells the story of how his sister Sophie died, the Sick Child, which reveals her bedridden with tuberculosis, resurfaces however this time barely animated. Some frames mix painted and filmed parts. For instance, Nyquist rides a motorcycle in opposition to a painterly sky, echoing Munch’s palette and brushstrokes. Those results are instrumental in giving rhythm to a film that’s heavy on dialogue and aesthetics, however skinny on plot.
As the previous Munch fades out, an engraved model of The Scream lastly makes a quick look, paving the best way for a stream of work shot in Oslo’s Munch Museum, which holds among the artist’s most essential works. It appears like a promotion for the museum’s spectacular new constructing, opened to the general public in 2021.
If you got here anticipating an in-depth exploration into Munch’s life or his thoughts, stuffed with stable information, names, or dates, you might be dissatisfied. Some dialogue borders on pop psychology. Neither mainstream nor esoteric, the film falls in need of rationalization. It’s exhausting to know the place the director goes. The soundtrack, units, the actors are as much as the duty however is it sufficient? The viewers are left we one primary notion: Munch was a tormented artist who averted Nazi confiscation by donating his works to town of Oslo. And that’s just about it.