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More than half of the media stories about the elderly in the nineties dealt with private wards and the right to have a shower every day – the initiatives, the reforms, and the political intentions.
But behind the curtains in a Norwegian home for the elderly one hears whispers about hands. The absence of hands. And intimacy. Because spouses are separated. Placed on separate corridors. Double rooms? Double beds?
“Why not? We are forced apart. We, who have been married for 60 years!” says Einar.
A house. A miniature society. A closed room. And everything that the walls shut in: madness, humour, desire, yearning, sorrow, hope, and great romance. This is old age in all its splendour.
“In the House of Angels” highlights a part of our reality which, in a positive way, will lead to other, more profound questions about our welfare resources for elderly people than have so far been debated.
Festivals, awards & nominations:
Norwegian Film of the Year 1998 (Natt&Dag)
Winner of Gullruten (The Golden Screeen) 1999
Best documentary at the Norwegian Shortfilmfestival, Grimstad 1999
Amanda for best documentary 1999
Audience-award at Nordic Panorama 1999
Diploma at Nordic Panorama 1999
The Humanist-prize at the Little Filmfestival in Båstad (given by Staffan Jarl), Sweden 2000
The Norwegian Filmfestival, Haugesund, 1998
Nordic Filmdays in Lübeck 1998
Cinema delle donne, Turin 1998
Gøteborg International filmfestival 1999
Cinema du Reel, Paris 1999
Input, Texas 1999
Edinburgh International Film Festival 1999
Nordic Panorama, Iceland 1999
Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival, Japan 1999
Helsinki International Film Festival 1999
IFDA, Amsterdam 1999
Scandinavian Filmfestival i Seattle 2000
Doc Aviv, Israel 2000
Little Filmfesvial in Båstad, Sweden 2000
“This Olin, my friends, is a director who really is earnest.”
– Bjørn Gabrielsen, Natt&Dag –
A capturing film – disturbingly revealing, and with a beautiful tenderness.
– VG –
“Reveals a new documentary talent ”
– Dagsavisen –
“Gives a voice to the voiceless. Pure poetry. Fantastic!”
– Nordlys –
“Touching. Made with remarkable insight.”
– Dagbladet –
“Completely unvarnished and unadulterated. Made with genuin affection for human kind.”
– Avisa Tromsø –
“Norways most moving film actors. From tears to laughter and back to tears.”
– Fremtiden –
“Film about elderly shakes politician to tears.” – Dagbladet –
“In the House of Angels” treats our society’s fear for decay, the evil and ugly in an unbiased manner, and how our view upon mankind is being distorted. It literally shows the decay of man in a naked way. A powerful film.” –
Jon Selås –
“Full of respect –
“A beautiful piece of film”
– Agderposten –
“Poetry at journey’s end” –
DOX review October 1999:
In the House of Angels is a feature length documentary that explores everyday life in the Sandeheim home for elderly in Norway. The film provides suggestive insight into an issue rarely dealt with in such a sensible and respectful way. The characters get close to the camera, and once they are alone with the film crew, they use it as an intimate friend to whom they can confess, express their despair, or confide their opinions. It is also a provocative film, as it confront its audience with their own attitude to, not only old age, but humanity in general. The film follows the residents of the Sandeheim home for one year, and the viewer withnesses many different successive situations behind the walls. At first glance everything seems nice and neat, but as the film works its way beneath the tidy surface, it reveals the many layers of human needs that do not fit into the daily schedule. Although traditions are honoured, food is served and beds are made, the emotional content behind these actions seems to have perished in order to maintain normality and good appearances. Tears are wiped away, not with compassion, but to remove emotional evidence. You don’t know wether to laugh or cry. Many of the residents have lost contact with their families, others have lost their beloved husband or wife, some are physically weak while others are senile, yet they are all human beings like you and me, dependent on the human contact they receive. “Beeing poor in spirit is just one state of being, and there is nothing wrong with that”, notes one of the residents, but wether we need this state of being is the central question in this film. Thus on one hand, this film is a much-needed hymn to old age portrayed with warmth and humour, while on the other it questions the idea of the Welfare State. Does this seeming inability to incorporate humanity in the daily lives of these people mean that the idea of the welfare state has failed? Or has the concept of normality reached such a narrow definition that it has excluded mankind itself. This kind of reconsideration is suggested throughout the film. The logic of the film carries its own lyricism in a rich blend of observational and reflective styles. This prism makes the film a strong statement in which Margreth Olin takes her rhetorical and aesthetic liberties seriously and expresses her own interpretation of the issue at hand to heighten our awareness of the images and sounds ine the reality shedepicts.
Heida Paulsen Documentary Film Magazine