The first time a kid realises that there is a world beyond their hometown can be scary. When filmmaker Ole Giæver was young, going all the way to Oslo felt like going to Mars. From the Balcony, Giæver’s third feature film, is a cinematic collage of video diaries, family photos, old home movies and several lovely animations. Together, they form a time capsule of a year in the life of the director and his family.
Giæver’s daily life is marked by routine: drinking tea on the balcony, watching football with friends, playing with his kids. Living in Norway, one of the world’s safest and wealthiest countries, he has very little to be truly worried about. And yet, while Giæver appreciates the stability and simple pleasures of his routine, he pines for the sheer exuberance and wonder of his youth, when summers were endless and anything was possible. “I miss being stirred by something,” he tells us. “Having it ignite a spark in me.” This childlike sense of freedom is juxtaposed with adult responsibilities like helping his daughter brush her teeth and wiping down the kitchen table after supper. These day-to-day activities are interspersed with deeply philosophical meditations on how his children experience time, his own fears of ageing, and the nature of existence.
The feature contains some beautiful shots: Giæver aiming a blow dryer at his young daughter’s blonde hair as she twirls in the sun; his quiet son picking berries in the woods, a partially animated segment in which he imagines that humans have gone extinct and been replaced by crocodiles. But the world of the film veers too often into the melodramatic – “I keep marvelling at the enormity of time and space,” Giæver says, and even his girlfriend calls the project self-absorbed. The piece is best when the filmmaker loosens up a bit and plays with his material.
From the Balcony unites the mundane and the existential, the warmth of everyday human interactions and the claustrophobia of routine, the terror of space and time and the magnificence of the universe. Giæver is seeking nothing less than the meaning of life. And does he figure it out, finally? Well, he comes to the same conclusions as many others have before him: it’s the little things that make life worth living. It’s a nice thought, but it’s nothing new.
Fra Balkongen (From the Balcony) does not have a UK release date yet.
For further information about the 67th Berlin Film Festival visit here.