A Norwegian satire on mob warfare and Nordic habits, Hans Petter Moland’s In Order Of Disappearance is a hilarious comedy that takes us beyond ordinary scruples.
The Devil Take The Hindmost by Mark Wilshin
CAUTION: Here be spoilers
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. And it’s an age-old adage that seems to be working well for Hans Petter Moland, returning to the big screen after his dark comedy A Somewhat Gentle Man with his trusted crew of screenwriter Kim Fupz Aakeson and leading man Stellan Skarsgård for his blackest and funniest film yet, In Order Of Disappearance. It may at first sight appear like a Nordic take on Pierre Morel’s Taken, as a Swedish snow-plough driver in Norway and ‘Citizen of the Year’ goes on a bloody rampage to find his son’s killers. But Kraftidioten, with its coruscating humour and sly observations, is an altogether different beast; instead of the bruiser bravado of a father trying to protect his daughters’s purity, it’s a dark world on the bright white snows, where revenge is human. And no life is sacred.
Nils (Stellan Skarsgård) is a snow-plough driver, a happy man who enjoys his job, creating waves in the snow and keeping a strip of civilisation open in the wilderness. He’s a Swede living in Norway, a well-integrated immigrant – but an outsider all the same, despite his recent accolade as Citizen of the Year. But when his son dies of a heroin overdose, Nils decides not to end it all, instead going in search of the truth behind his son’s murder, disappearing into an underworld of gangsters, as he climbs the chain of command by way of vegan cartel boss the Count (Pål Sverre Hagen), his snippish Danish ex-wife (Birgitte Hjort Sørensen) and the Serbian mafia mastermind Papa (Bruno Ganz). It’s one somewhat gentle man against the whole world. And with nothing to lose.
Sure, the odds are stacked against him, but it’s not long before the bodycount starts to pile up, as each death is chalked up with a funereal intertitle honouring the victim with their name (or nickname) and a Protestant cross, an Orthodox crucifix or any other spiritual signifier. It’s a funny, but also macabre marker of the rising death toll – democratic and heedless of which gang or cartel the deceased belonged to. Like Molland’s English language title, with its cinematic reference to rolling credits, the world of In Order Of Disappearance is an overtly fictional one in which death and murder are to be enjoyed, gleefully and with full moral abandonment. For just as Nils crosses the line of morality, choosing (a revenge-filled) life over suicide, so too does the viewer cross this line vicariously, entering into a dark world of the blackest comedy.
This irreverential fictional world though is spiked with devastating irony, such as the two Serbian gangsters discussing the merits of working for the mob in Norway, “There’s no warm country with welfare. It’s either sunshine or welfare.” For indeed, much of Kraftidioten is a satire on the Western attitude towards immigration – the Norwegian goons are imbeciles, unable to remember the distinction between Albanians and Serbians, who are more likely to bust a blood vessel over the wrong latte macchiato than their turf war. It’s a world of Scandinavian style, healthy eating and co-parenting, far removed from the traditional mob presence of the Serbians, who laugh at the Norwegians and their obsession with picking up dog litter.
Culminating in a Mexican stand-off, Kraftidioten follows a fairly conventional storyline, but it’s illuminated by a wealth of delicious detail and hilarious performances. Stellan Skarsgård is a particularly highlight as the dour, bright-eyed father overcoming his scruples, while Pål Sverre Hagen turns in an enjoyably shrill, criminal bonehead. And while his black comedy set against the wintry slopes might poke fun at eccentric Norwegian habits, Hans Petter Moland’s In Order Of Disappearance shows that the land of snow and welfare sure knows how to serve its revenge. Cold. And very, very dark.
In Order Of Disappearance is released on 12th September 2014 in the UK