" Be careful of the deadfall "
— Anthony Hopkins, The Edge

MRQE Top Critic

Les Choristes

The French confection Les Choristes is now available on a skimpy, movie-only DVD —Matt Anderson (DVD review...)

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1001 Grams is about weights and measures. A daughter and a father. New ways and old ways. Curves versus angles. Rational numbers and irrational numbers.

If you didn’t know about the film’s drily comedic tone, you might find the story in 1001 Grams boring. A father and daughter work at Norway’s weights-and-measures bureau. Ane Dahl Torp plays Marie with an utterly serious mien. At work, they test the bounciness of balls, the steepness of ski slopes, and the volume in dispensed liters of gasoline.

Their workplace is all about calibration, so “1001 grams” suggests that something is a little off.

Jokes About Architecture

Dahl Torp checks on The Kilogram
Dahl Torp checks on The Kilogram

Bent Hamer, who directed the quirky comedies O’Horten and Kitchen Stories brings his usual wry tone and visuals.

1001 Grams doesn’t have “jokes” per se, but the visuals are witty, almost without fail.

Marie lives in a modernist house that Jacques Tati would settle for, and she drives a boxy little electric car that Mr. Bean would kill for. In contrast, her father lives on a farm and naps in the hay, even though he doesn’t raise livestock. The contrast is repeatedly funny. Her funny little inorganic car drives up his muddy driveway, navigating around puddles and potholes.

Is it a stretch to say that cars and architecture can count as “jokes”? I say it’s no stretch at all.

Defining Close Enough

The same tone applies to the story. Marie’s father Ernst (Stein Winge) usually takes the national prototype — the official Norwegian kilogram — to the kilo conference in France. (You’ll hear someone explain that the kilogram is the last physical reference object, since the meter was retired in favor of counting wavelengths.) But when Ernst gets very sick, Marie takes over the honor of escorting the kilogram through airport security on the way to Paris.

While there, she meets a Frenchman named Pilate (Laurent Stocker) — his car catches her eye. He’s a scientist too, but instead of dealing in absolute and abstract forms, he measures birdsong. His latest research shows that the birds’ “dialect” changes as you move from Paris out toward the suburbs.

Pilate’s fuzzy work is yet another way to take cinematic advantage of a story obsessed with precision weight. Other useful homilies thrown out during the movie: “Judge not lest you be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get,” and “Life’s heaviest burden is to have nothing to carry.”

1001 Grams will represent Norway in the Academy Awards foreign language category. Whether it’s better than other films from around the world, I won’t know until I see them all. But for me, 1001 Grams is just the right amount of wit.