In Order of Disappearance (Kraftidioten) tells the story of Nils, a Swedish snowplow driver who leads a simple life in the winter wonderland of Norway, along with his loving wife and slightly annoying neighbors. We learn that Nils has been awarded “Citizen of the Year” for his work in clearing the way for drivers in the snowy town. Sadly, things soon take a turn for the worse when he and his wife discover their son has died of an apparent overdose. Life as Nils knows it has been turned upside down; his wife pulls away from him; the police refuse to investigate further; and soon suicide becomes his only option. Until, that is, Nils discovers the truth of his son’s demise.
In the beginning, the film relies heavily on its beautiful landscapes and fitting score; the story and dark humor clash as we learn the sad truth of his son’s death at the hands mafia drug dealers. Despite the somewhat awkward start however, this dark gem soon picks up with fantastic performances, outrageous humor, and gory action. Having nothing to lose, Nils begins to follow a path of blind vengeance by tracking down the man responsible for his son’s death, a man who turns out to be a Serbian psychopath known as “The Count.” Now, it has to be said, this summary does not sound like the lead-up to a charming comedy, and yet this is exactly what Hans Petter Moland has given us. When Nils stumbles into the world of crime, he unwittingly creates an all-out war between gangs, resulting in multiple “disappearances,” henchmen shoot-outs, child kidnappings, and even some laughs.
In Order of Disappearance has all the tropes of a gangster flick: hit-men, drugs, guns, and yet all the self-awareness of a fantastically satirical comedy. As Nils, Stellen Skarsgård’s droll performance fits perfectly within the black comedy, he is our everyman as he awkwardly stumbles into an underground world, each murder somehow leading to more laughter. Being an outsider of the gangster community, Nils stops to question the absurdity of the lifestyle, questioning the nicknames the men give themselves: “The Chinaman,” “Wingman,” “Strike,” and even stops to laugh at just how exhausting it is to beat someone to death.
However it has to be said that Skarsgård is not the only star of this absurd comedy, each and every actor delivers a subtle performance of dry comedy and serious crime; Bruno Ganz plays an old school mafia boss called “Papa” exquisitely , Jacob Oftebro is the young henchmen with too much pride and not enough sense; while Birgitte Hjort Sorensen’s performance as the trophy wife turned hipster ex gives a nice bite of reality to an otherwise surreal film. Truely though, it is Pål Sverre Hagen’s performance as mafia boss, “The Count,” that is nothing short of beautiful. His slicked-back hair, immaculate fashion sense, and flashy cars, are that of a psychotic gangster, while his insecurities, obsession with his son’s diet, and his vegan lifestyle make him almost laughable. He is the ultimate dark-comedy villain in a film that has followed in the footsteps of the Cohen brothers’ Fargo and Martin McDonagh’s Seven Psychopaths.
Ultimately, Hans Petter Moland delivers a deeply satisfying black comedy full of tropes, laughs, gory violence, and catchy nicknames. It definitely shined at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, and I can only hope that it will get the attention it deserves—despite the subtitles which so often hold a foreign film back from large scale attention.
—Sinann Fetherston (B)