Staying Alive: How to survive a breakdown
by Jesús Silva
- The first feature by Norwegian filmmaker Charlotte Blom is a bittersweet comedy about a woman dealing with the aftermath of a breakup, while trying to start a new life and rediscover herself
Named after the famous Bee Gees song, Staying Alive [+see also:
interview: Charlotte Blom
film profile], the first feature by Norwegian director Charlotte Blom, is a rather unconventional family comedy that deals with the consequences of a breakup, while depicting both the gloomy and the humorous aspects of starting afresh. After having directed a couple of experimental short films, Blom’s feature-length debut comedy screened in the Main Competition at the 19th edition of the Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival (13-29 November). The movie was produced by Synnøve Hørsdal for Maipo Film, with Nordisk Film Distribusjon AS handling distribution.
At first glance, Marianne (Agnes Kittelsen) and Håkon (Anders Baasmo Christiansen) appear to be a solid and charming couple, each half of which perfectly complements the other: the former is carefree and playful, always on the lookout for fun, while the latter brings steadiness and responsibility to the equation. They lead an ordinary and happy life in a quiet neighbourhood of Oslo: raising their two children, having friends over for dinner and enjoying one another’s company… Well, not quite, perhaps. Everything changes when Marianne finds out that her apparently docile partner has been having an affair with a work colleague, a devastating disappointment that leads her to question their entire relationship. Although, after the initial shock and subsequent fight, she is willing to forgive him, it turns out that Håkon has already made his mind up, deciding to continue his relationship with the other woman. At this point, Marianne is forced to confront the reality of an unpleasant breakdown and personal crisis, with her only support provided by her laid-back parents and her best friend, Kristin (Linn Skåber).
As Blom herself expressed (read the interview), “A breakup, in itself, is far from being funny;” nevertheless, she manages to approach the topic with such a clear and sensible vision that the humorous aspects of the film never prevail over the painful and delicate situations. Staying Alive is definitely an atypical kind of comedy, which manages to find a perfect balance in its dramatic tone when depicting the struggles of a woman trying to fit into a new lifestyle and rediscovering herself after a 15-year relationship. We follow Marianne throughout the whole process of this rupture, which naturally involves sadness and suffering, but also hilarious moments of immaturity and self-affirmation. The music plays a crucial part in the narrative (courtesy of the Bee Gees, Marvin Gaye and Johnny Logan, to name just a few), as it is intended to reflect the main themes of the film; but it is mainly Blom’s impressive skill with dialogue that brings the whole movie together, building up a full, enjoyable story for both the festival run and commercial audiences.