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AKA The Black Lapp
DIRECTED BY: Erik Smith Meyer
FEATURING: Kingsford Siayor, Kjersti Lid Gullvåg, Eirik Junge Eliassen, Thor-Inge Gullvåg, Frank Jørstad, Guri Johnson
PLOT: In the furthest northern reaches of Norway, three young men fight to win the affections of pretty Anna: Peder, a strong-but-stupid man-child who is favored by Anna’s murderous father; Ante, a young Black man who was found on the beach as an infant; and Norman, a disaffected Sámi who longs to forsake his heritage and travel abroad.
WHY IT MIGHT MAKE THE APOCRYPHA: Like an episode of “Maury” transplanted to a remote patch of Norwegian tundra, Svidd neger is shocking, inexplicable, and gleefully inappropriate. With an ever-shifting tone and an unflagging desire to push buttons, this is a movie that is happily gross, joyfully surreal, and takes deep pride in zigging where others zag.
COMMENTS: There is something that unites every culture, every group of people on this planet: having someone to look down upon. Racism, sexism, bigotry of every shade are built upon the notion that those people over there are deeply inferior to us, with no regard to how appalling we might be ourselves. As proof of the pervasiveness of this mindset, look no further than the living paradise that is Scandinavia. Those medically socialized fjord-huggers would appear to have created an equitably minded, affordably furnished standard of living for their people. But despite receiving high marks for livability, they have still found a ready-made pariah in the Sámi, an ethnicity in the northernmost parts of Norway, Sweden, Finland, and northwest Russia with their own language and culture. Sometimes known as Laplanders (a term which is now deemed pejorative), the Sámi people lived quite independently until the 19th century, when aggressive governments sought to assimilate them and wipe out their distinctiveness. While these policies have been rolled back somewhat (especially in Norway, where the Sámi have their own parliament), the disdain and resentment never really goes away. And that seems to be the basic sentiment behind Svidd neger: no matter how trashy people get, they can always find someone else to crap on.
And my goodness, the residents of this isolated outpost are supremely trashy. The root of all nastiness is Karl, Anna’s drunkard father who opens the film by drowning his philandering wife and casting her mixed race infant into the sea. Impressively, he only manages to get worse as the film progresses, as we learn about how his violent ways have affected nearly every other character. Naturally, his only interest in his daughter is her ability to produce a male heir to secure his “kingdom.” It also follows that he would throw his support behind Peder, an impressively stupid hunk of meat whom we see attempt to rape Anna twice and who spends the rest of his time fruitlessly masturbating or hopping gleefully on a broken tractor like a four-year-old.
It soon becomes clear that the only decent people in the film are outsiders, but they’re no angels. Norman, the Sámi who wants out, is so disgusted with being an outsider that he’s willing to trade-in to become white trash in another country. (His dreams of “Ammrica” revolve around drinking lots of Coke and dressing like a biker, complete with Confederate flag patch.) Meanwhile, Ante is already the ultimate outsider (he is the subject of the film’s title, whose least offensive translation is “burnt negro”), but he seems determined to become even moreso, adopting the language and attire of the Sámi, indulging a deep and abiding love for Dolly Parton, and sending out bottled messages to prospective new fathers.
On top of all these wild characters, director Meyer piles on crazy plot twists, full-blown musical numbers, elaborate fight scenes, and a deux ex machina that starts building during the opening credits. Along the way, he peppers scenes with amusing quirks and curiosities, but then just as quickly drops in something dark and disturbing. For example, Peder’s deluded mother meets her end in a horrifying impalement, but then is left to flail about hilariously like a wind sock. The score often matches the schizophrenic tone of the movie, jumping from light pop to dramatic orchestration to tinges of bluegrass in rapid succession.
Somehow, despite the extreme circumstances and the extreme reactions to them, everyone seems to get roughly what they deserve, which says a lot about how well Svidd neger delivers its parade of the idiotic and the grotesque. Like its awful protagonists, the movie is easy to look down upon as crass and disgusting. Yet it somehow wins out in the end.
WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:
(This movie was nominated for review by Thomas. Suggest a weird movie of your own here.)