Terribly Happy Henrik Ruben Genz

Terribly Happy Henrik Ruben Genz
In film, when a stranger comes to town, it's safe to say that morality is on the agenda, whether it be that of optimistic martyred heroism in a John Wayne sort of way, or more noir with moral quandary leading to the punishment or redemption of a broken man. Since Terribly Happy is a Danish movie with obtuse, surrealist undertones free from geographic ideological specificity, the Western mythology wanes, leaving more of a Coen Brothers vibe, or, more accurately, something akin to Erik Skjoldbjaerg's Insomnia. Similarly, the premise is that of a psychologically shady cop — or marshal, in this case, as Robert Hansen (Jakob Cedergren) is frequently called — coming to a small town where the guiding, impenetrable ethos differs from that of big city Copenhagen law. Having a nervous breakdown and an absent wife in the narrative periphery, he winds up in the middle of a marital spat between the violent Jorgen (Kim Bodnia) and his erratic, overly flirtatious wife Ingerlise (Lene Maria Christensen). How he botches this scenario while struggling morally with the seemingly abject nature of the townsfolk's code isn't necessarily a surprise, but an overall refusal to cater to traditional genre principles is. This insularly male existential yarn is more concerned with modes of adaptation as a means of survival than it is preaching traditional modes of manhood. An atmospheric, impressionistic aesthetic, aware of characters in relation to the bigger picture and background figures, compounds this notion, never removing Robert from his environment. Resultantly, there is an overwhelming sense of imprisonment — an intended irony, surely — and alien landscape where foreign customs dictate action. It's quite fascinating to behold, remaining compelling while genres bleed together and the story places psychodrama within the context of social expectations. While the commentary track and "Behind the Scenes" included with the DVD are moderately standard inclusions, with the occasional moment of awkwardness, the television promotional interview with both the director and original author Erling Jepsen gets strange when Jepsen hits Genz in the face, causing him to bleed. (Mongrel Media)