In our continuous support and cooperation with the Supporting Actress Sundays (going on its THIRD year now. Yay!), we submit this even curiouser performance in a curious movie you may have passed by:
Hjemve (Just Like Home)
Just Like Home is about a town on the tear after the mysterious terrorist scare of a naked runner appearing one night. We don’t exactly know how everybody finds out about this but what we do find out is how absolute everybody gives in, how everybody is jangled inside because of this attack at convention. The town and its story is an odd one, full of people who know each other at name value alone, gossip and nothing really beyond their town meetings and courtesy visits to each others’ shops. Despite the shock to their sensibilities, everybody soon acknowledges what a welcome jolt the running naked man was as everybody begins to strip away their own guards, most evident by the establishment of the suicide hotline that eventually becomes a device for everyone to have their personal asides with their fellow townspeople. The film focuses on this issue and gives a balanced, too balanced in fact, attention on everyone’s problems. And in the seeming center of all this is Myrtle…….
It is in her opening existential exasperation that I immediately fell in love with Bodil Jørgensen and her Myrtle. She meets with a new member to their town, a runaway from one of those rigid religious communities (watch the rest of the movie for examples of these encounters). Myrtle welcomes this newcomer with the expected greeting of a town official. The town welcomes you. The town helps each other. The town supports each other. And yet there is a problem. Myrtle is being made redundant. The refugee cannot help but speak up and say this must be a test from God. Hoo boy…….
“What an idiotic God! Why would he test the municipality’s Myrtle?”
This screen cap (as uttered by Myrtle herself) sums up everything about her and her character (and fortunately or unfortunately, the entire movie). It declares the philosophical quandary of hers and her town: 20 years of taking care of the children but the children have grown up, becoming too complicated for Myrtle’s care, thus “bad chemistry” and redundancy.
Poor Myrtle but I’m sure her hobby of making novelty pipes seriously will let her cope as the movie goes back and forth.
The townspeople go about solving the naked runner mystery at the same time discovering things about each other. Myrtle on the other hand appears here and there with a consistently remarkable expression coming from a woman who must continue doing work that is too unlike her while plodding with cheer and exhaustion towards a forced upon oblivion. Call it a quirk, an irritating facial tic, but I call it a presence and a constant meditation.
She has a pained questioning when she makes the assertion that in their town, they help each other and support each other. She praises the other functioning members and organizes the meetings but we constantly see her look of “but why are these my last days?” She has worked for 20 years with children now they give her a lecture series due to “simple bad chemistry.”
So where are all these children? There are none in the entire movie. But at film’s end, it is pretty obvious who the children are as the men in the town block her from leaving her own farewell party, exposed infants pining to please/protect their mom. Flabbergasted as a town, they confess as a town. It is all fitting. 20 years working with children, those standing to save her were the children 20 years ago.
The movie just kind of ends. To me, Myrtle is a standout but the filmmaker’s balanced handling of every character’s stories sort of hindered the movie from reaching a satisfactory ending. I found Myrtle important in the sense that I was a fan pulling for the film to treat her as important as I was finding her to be. Unfortunately, I got my wish and it is quite frustrating how the movie handled how important she could have been. She is given a VERY positive end; it is too big of a reward for her though. She sort of finds the clothed man among the naked babes, fulfilling and satisfying at least the mother/wife aspect of her character that is being ripped away. I have to end this entry. I love the character, I love the actress but I didn’t like the “we have to wrap this up” approach to satisfying the characters or audience. At least I can take Bodil Jørgensen whose performance and memorable facial expression believably transports you from disenchanted exhaustion to muted internal elation.
Thank you for reading if you did indeed make it to the end. Please go and read the other entries here.