More noise than signal

Next Door

This review has been ‘repurposed’ from my other site,

Number of Norwegian films I can remember seeing prior to Next Door, or Naboer in the native: none. Relevance of said point: none. Just saying, is all. When his girlfriend Ingrid (Anna Bache-Wiig) leaves him, John (Kristoffer Joner) is quite upset. More so than he initially realises, and Next Door is basically the story of his realisation. Dragged into a rather strange apartment by his rather strange neighbours Kim (Julia Schacht) and Anne (Cecilie A. Mosli) with a rather strange story, things get rather strange rather quickly, as you might expect.

I’m not going to spout the usual spoiler disclaimers as it pretty clear as soon as John enters the impossibly labyrinthine next door apartment that Things Are Not What They Seem, unless the Norwegians have some hitherto unrealised predilection for Escheresque architecture. Indeed, by the time it’s supposedly giving its big reveal there can’t possibly be anyone left in the audience that hasn’t figured it out, rendering a good five minute chunk of its already slender 75 minutes irrelevant.

Still, even if you can see it coming a mile off, there’s still things to like about Next Door. It’s played with just the right pitch of off-kilter paranoia on Joner’s part to pull us along for the ride, although perhaps a lack of subtlety contributes to the early rumbling of what’s supposed to be the secret.

There’s a few disturbing scenes in here, as it delves into the depths of John’s sexual preferences that make for difficult viewing. There’s a moment where it seems to be doing something slightly brave, in a twisted Cronenberg Crash sense, although it quickly undoes this as another layer of John’s delusions is stripped away. Schacht’s damaged, predatory advances balance along a thin line between achingly erotic and pornographically repugnant, before being retroactively undone by yet another twist of the non-linear narrative knife.

Remember Identity? If you’d managed to forget such horror then I apologise for reopening the wound, but it’s really the best comparison point. Yes, yes, the more pretentious writings on this film will talk of Polanski and Lynch, but they’re barking up entirely the wrong thematic tree. This is nowhere near as risible, but ultimately just as disposable; it’s relatively difficult to track down anywhere showing Norwegian films, and in this case at least, not worth marking the effort.