With its dry Nordic humour and distinguished visual style - comparisons with Aki Kaurismaki (The Man Without A Past) abound - acclaimed Norwegian director Bent Hamer's Kitchen Stories proved to be one of 2003's genuine and most idiosyncratic cinema highlights.
In the early 1950s Sweden's Home Research Institute is conducting studies into domestic habits. Armed with clipboards, a Swedish delegation arrives in a Norwegian rural district, with the aim of observing the kitchen routines of single men. One hapless observer, Nilsson (Tomas Nostrom) is assigned a particularly reluctant farmer, the cantankerous old Isak (Joachim Calmeyer), who at first won't even let him into the house. Soon, though, Nilsson takes up his vantage point on a wooden platform perched ludicrously in the corner of the kitchen - only to find that Isak is watching him, through a hole in the kitchen ceiling. Slowly, however, relations begin to thaw.
Offering incisive, delightfully droll observations on national misunderstandings, Kitchen Stories' first-rate performances and sharp script are complemented by a slightly off-kilter visual style and designer Billy Johansson's wonderful retro pastiches.
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