A Brief Commentary & Review of Here is Harold
Written and directed by Gunnar Vikene
Mountain Shadow's film selection for December, 2106
Review by John Bennison, Mountain Shadow Director
“Life is a tragedy when seen in close-up, but a comedy in long-shot. To truly laugh, you must be able to take your pain, and play with it!” - Charlie Chaplin
The first and last time I ever ventured into an IKEA mega-store, i thought i would be lost for all eternity. LIke a rat caught in a maze, the exit was only to be found after circumnavigating my way past every conceivable commodity one could ever acquire. It wasn’t fun.
There’s also hardly anything funny to be found in the first fifteen minutes of this cinematic drama-comedy either.
The film begins with a chronological montage of photos from a family scrapbook, depicting the lives of Harold and Marny Lunde. Harold has built a life for himself; including a modestly successful furniture business. He has married and raised a son. It would seem to be all the normal chapters written in an ordinary life story.
But now the years have passed, and time has taken its toll. Harold is estranged from his grown son, and left to care for his aging wife, who slips deeper and deeper into the fog of dementia. In many ways, it’s all part of the normal package called life. If it all seems unfair, then Harold is hardly alone.
But what seems more than a little unfair is when a conglomerate that peddles relatively slipshod furniture builds a mega superstore seemingly overnight next door; and summarily puts him out of business. Bankrupt and no longer able to care for his wife, Harold resolves to get even. He’ll kidnap Ingvar Kamprad, IKEA’s founder, and hold the wealthiest man in the world for ransom.
Thus begins an expeditionary quest, filled with darkly-tinged humor.
Along the way he’ll encounter Ebba, a teenager toughened by the streets, and her own maternal compunction she cannot seem to elude to care for her mother who’s a wounded soul and fallen angel. Sharing with Ebba his outlandish plan to make off with the equivalent Sam Walton of Sweden, the impressed young rebel has a one-word reaction, “Cool.”
But when random fate literally drops Ingvar Kamprad in his lap, Harold is befuddled by the unflappable skinflint; who seems perfectly content to allow someone else to foot the bill for his room and board. In an ironic twist, where ill-planned circumstances result in unintended consequences, Harold finds himself in a half-frozen predicament with an unlikely “brother” not unlike himself. Life, it seems, has a way of equalizing everyone and everything.
At one point, Harold sputters at Ingvar with exasperation. “I sold quality that aged well. You sell crap that falls apart.”
“It’s not about the chair,” Ingvar replies, “but about the man who sits in it,” Then he adds, “But you’re right. I make furniture that, like people, age and fall apart. But it’s okay. You’re not supposed to keep going forever.”
Then, as the ever-frugal Ingvar Kamprad settles down for a long winter’s nap on a display model bed in his furniture warehouse, he tells Harold to turn out the lights. “They waste too much electricity.” Then. as an afterthought, adds, “And, Merry Christmas, Harold.”
Next, a cold dawn breaks and Harold finds himself alone on a frozen tundra with nothing but the absurdity of it all to show for all his flailing efforts. There’s that, and -- without giving away the last brief scene -- one bare thread left of a familial tether that brings him to the only door of hopeful possibility.
"To truly laugh, you must be able to take your pain, and play with it!”
- Charlie Chaplin