In the magical world of film, as in life, there’s that rare, unique face in the crowd that not only catches one’s eye, but grabs the sinews of one’s being to draw you in to see the remarkable talents in her exposition of the craft. Seventy years ago, there was the late three-time Academy Award winning Swede Ingrid Bergman (1915-1982) in Casablanca (1942), seizing the limelight and audience from lead actor Humphrey Bogart. Amid the mass market deluge from the back lots and casting couches of corporate Hollywood, I spied another intriguing Scandinavian wonder in Norwegian actress Agnes Kittelsen. Not only someone whose screen presence just turned a head, but turned it hard enough and often enough to warrant a steady relationship with a chiropractor.
Ms. Kittelsen, 32, is a gifted actress from Kristiansand, at the southern tip of Norway, or roughly bifurcating the westward trek from Bollywood to Hollywood with a sharp jag north near the top of the Temperate Zone. She’s talented and versatile; having mastered drama and comedy genres with the projected imaginary ease of a costume change. Enough of it is available in English subtitles to give the rest of us a tantalizing taste. Her domestic television work is Norwegian, so out comes the Norwegian-English dictionary and a slowly, but thankfully, increasing number of understood dialogue words. Perhaps Sesame Street’s Elmo, Oscar, Big Bird, and Count von Count can get political asylum at Norway’s publicly-owned, multi-channeled NRK television network?
If one can still see the world of film despite the often overbearing shadow cast by the “American Exceptionalism” bumper-stickered Hollywood cultural Disneyland steamroller, the distinctive Norwegian cinema offers hidden delights. Norway’s more than just breathtaking fjords or a health care plan that covers nearly everyone. In Ms. Kittelsen’s dramatic role as a World War II Norwegian Resistance liaison official in the 2008 epic Max Manus: Man of War, you’ll have to wait for the final delightful minutes to see her in a successful romantic kiss. In Hollywood, one would expect a full-blown shagging in the opening minutes.
Agnes Kittelsen has earned an Amanda (Norwegian: Amandaprisen) for her acting at home, and a 2011 World Cinema Jury Award at The Sundance Film Festival for her role in the charmingly quirky comedie noir Happy, Happy (In Norway: Sykt Lykkelig). Here’s an accomplished actress with achievements of more substance than a glittered Academy Award Oscar gala designer frock and a front page liposuction scandal in the National Enquirer.
In the U.S., it was “Leif Erikson Day” last week, reminding us who hit these shores nearly a half-millenium before the Christopher Columbus championed by the Mafia’s five families want you to believe (unless you want your legs broken.)
The latest Kittelsen work is crossing an ocean near you with a remake of the 1951 Oscar-winning flick of explorer Thor Heyerdahl’s 1947 rafting trek from Peru to Polynesia, also titled Kon Tiki. If anyone can spice up a slow boat, it’s Agnes Kittlesen. Her film career is definitely “going far.”