Runtime: 100 minutes
Director: Marianne Blicher
Writer: Rasmus Birch (Original Idea by Marianne Blicher)
Stars: Ragnhild Kaasgaard, Isabella Moller Hansen, Kristian Halken
By Calum Cooper
Some of the opening frames of “Miss Viborg” (2023) look as if they would fit in a re-imagining of Chantel Akerman’s “Jeanne Dielman” (1975). They depict Solvej Hansen (Ragnhild Kaasgaard), an ageing woman long past her prime living in Viborg. She is getting through life one mundane routine at a time, with the only sparks of enthusiasm left being her dog and the mass amount of pills she sells to others on her zimmer. She begins to see something of a kindred spirit in Kate (Isabella Moller Hansen), a rebellious 17-year-old who lives in the flat opposite. Solvej and Kate begin to interact more, a process which confronts the scars of the past and the unknowns of the future alike.
The premise and tone of “Miss Viborg” are akin to movies like “A Man Called Ove” (2015). This is a story about someone getting on in the years finding some kind of connection – be it hope or irritation – in that of the younger generation. Yet rather than typical mentor trainee relationships, films of this calibre often showcase how each person impacts the other. “Miss Viborg” follows suit by presenting us with a story that, while seen many times before in different variations, still has a heartfelt charm to it. For the right crowd, there’s plenty of enjoyment to be had.
Director Marianne Blicher began her career as a stage manager in theatre. Her impressive attention to detail on the film’s technical range shows that her skills have carried over. The lighting is especially captivating in “Miss Viborg”. Early on the dingy, almost murky, greys, browns and blacks that make up Solvej’s flat capture the long standing pessimism that she wallows in. The brightness of the outside world is attractive by comparison, but it doesn’t necessarily suggest optimism all the time either, an especially nice touch for a film that laments how cruelly fast time can pass. Such lighting choices, accompanied by the confident direction and steadfast camerawork, create a sombre mood of which everyone is aware that life is rolling along without any regard for the individual.
“It showcases measurable skill on the part of Blicher, who is definitely going to be a filmmaker to watch out for. Those looking for an outlandish but heartfelt movie need look no further.”
Kaasgaard and Hansen’s chemistry is a resounding high point for the picture. The film lives and dies on their shoulders, and this duo capture the internal empathy but external passive aggression that this unlikely pairing define their relationship with. There is a borderline misanthropic dynamic to the two that sounds horrendous, but works surprisingly well when viewed within the context of the picture. That’s because there’s a real intimacy for the characters in the script, Solvej in particular. Despite her outward stroppiness, there is a real vulnerability and insecurity to her longing for how life was once that makes her easy to identify with. Thus when the fears for the future and the wounds of the past begin to spill over into the present, we can see how the characters’ newfound relationship parallels such complex emotions.
The film mostly keeps up a quirky spirit, even if it is underpinned by a darkness that the characters harbour. It’s quite the affable film as it briskly moves along. Yet it does somewhat lose momentum during the third act. This is namely because it begins to rely less on the inherent charm of the character dynamics and more on well-trodden narrative paths. The third act conflict that is customary in many films feels a little tacked on, while the ultimate resolution concerning Solvej’s arc may split audiences. While it technically ties up narrative, thematically it leaves a little to be desired.
Nevertheless, “Miss Viborg” will contain only delights for its target audience – those being people after earnest stories on the passing of time. It is tonally agreeable, its characters are interesting and likeable, and its craftsmanship is both fierce and delicate simultaneously. While it may be a predictable, even fluffy, narrative in many regards, its heart is in the right place. If nothing else, it showcases measurable skill on the part of Blicher, who is definitely going to be a filmmaker to watch out for. Those looking for an outlandish but heartfelt movie need look no further. Plus, the needle drops of The Proclaimers’ “500 Miles” is a nice touch for a film that is currently playing at a Scottish film festival.