Under the Sun
Facts and Figures
Run time: 130 mins
In Theaters: Friday 25th December 1998
Distributed by: Shadow Distribution
Contactmusic.com: 2.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 74%
Fresh: 25 Rotten: 9
IMDB: 6.9 / 10
Under the Sun Movie Review
The setting is the lush fields of Sweden in the late 1950's. Olof (Rolf Lassgård) is a lonely farmer who can barely hang on to the house his mother left to him when she died nine years before. His young, boisterous friend Erik (Johan Widerberg) helps him with errands and some work when he isn't digging graves.
Olof is simple and quiet, and ashamed that he can't read or write. He is also still a virgin. He goes to the local paper to place an ad for a housekeeper, hoping she will also become a female companion. Word gets out around the small town and their priest puts Erik on guard.
Ellen (Helena Bergström) arrives with little warning. Olof is instantly attracted to her and fumbles with conversation as Erik gets aggressively flirtatious, apparently in the protection of Olof. As time goes on, Ellen has set the house in repair and managed the finances without knowing that Olof can't read. She and Olof become romantically involved as she continues to duck Erik's advances. Erik won't rest until he finds a chink in her armor.
This character driven story is respectably able to keep the key players' motivations in question. You never know if Ellen is being coy with Erik or if she is really devoted to Olof, because her past is always in question. Erik seems to care a great deal about Olof but then makes successive comments trying to degrade him in Ellen's eyes. Olof himself appears a simpleton led by around by others but is allowed to show more intelligence as time progresses. This mixture keeps the mind reeling with anticipation as to what will happen next.
However, there are also flaws to the ambiguity. When Olof is finally able to show that he knows more about human nature than he lets on, it is only after he has had intercourse. The film seems to relate sexual intercourse with all newfound knowledge of the world surrounding Olof, which is hard to swallow.
Also, lacking knowledge of the characters' motivations from one scene to the next may keep you on mental toes, but it keeps you begging for the filmmaker to get on with allowing something to happen, already. There are at least eight scenes in which Erik tries to gain Ellen's physical affections and only one in which she stops him to challenge his honesty to Olof. The scenes themselves are intriguing enough to watch, but there are too many of them to keep one's attention from waning.
There is a fairy tale quality to the film that keeps the situation endearing enough to watch. Olof is a large man, and not particularly attractive, while Ellen is slim and perfectly coiffed. A link to Beauty and the Beast can easily by made. Between that, Erik's talk of what little Olof has to offer, and the stunning landscapes in which everything is shot, the viewer is transported into the environment where the characters live instead of merely being a spectator.
Unfortunately this film falls into a difficult category to appreciate. It isn't necessarily a good film for couples, and yet a modern single won't find much to like either. A bit too much like life for our tastes.
Aka Under solen.