Review by Vinoo
Language : Norwegian
Director : Erik Skjoldbjaerg
‘Enemy of the people’ is the story of Tomas Stockmann (Jorgan Langhelle), a nutritionist, who runs a popular TV reality show, ‘Town Community, and this in turn becomes a moral police for companies. The only problem is that it gets our host in trouble. While his program is really popular it has rubbed off his big bosses the wrong way by taking on one of their biggest advertisers who, tainted by the disclosures on the show, pulls out of the channel. Now the channel wants to continue with his program but with an advance clearance on the company he is going to feature. Rather than sell his soul Tomas Stockman decides to walk out on the channel and go back to his hometown to start a plant to bottle the world’s purest mineral water. The new business venture with his brother, Peter, puts his hometown on the world map and things are seemingly good.
Tomas gets to know of pesticide count in his bottled water, and subsequently he discovers his brother always knew about it but kept this information from him. Tomas wants to withdraw the bottled water as it could result in dangerous side-effects for the consumer. Peter goes all out to stop withdrawal of the product as it would result in huge losses. He gets Tomas’ wife to invest their entire life earnings in shares of the company thereby making it difficult for Tomas to take any step that will jeopardize his entire life’s earnings.. During all this Tomas discovers that the source of the contamination is pesticide that had been buried near the water source, many years earlier, by his father in law. Tomas Stockman goes all out to expose his brother, as his soul won’t allow a compromise. Not even at the cost of self-ruin. Tomas is fighting a losing battle but is a winner in the true sense. We are answerable to nobody, just ourselves. He does not compromise on his principles. He has to resort to ‘Town community’ again. Does it acquit him forms the rest of the story.
The scene wherein Tomas walks into the company and challenges his brother and then locks himself in his brother’s cabin is an excellent representation of the exact dilemma he is in. It is a must watch and a lesson in principles for all the Cola manufacturers and just about any manufacturer who is looking at nothing but selling their product, no matter what happens to the consumer.
Based on Henrik Ibsen’s play it has also been adapted by Satyajit Ray for ‘Ganashatru’(1989). Madhur Bhandarkar was ‘inspired’, in parts, from this film for his ‘Corporate’.
‘Insomnia’ by Erik Skjoldbjaerg is much better than the Christopher Nolan remake, in-spite of Al Pacino, Robin Williams and Hilary Swank. That, in itself, is saying a lot. Set in Norway, the long days and the light leaving the cop nowhere to hide is used to brilliant effect. Stellan Skarsgard (you will remember him from ‘Ronin’, ‘Breaking The Waves’) is brilliant. Nolan gives it a Hollywood ‘morally right’ ending. Hope to watch Skjoldbjaerg’s ‘Prozac nation’ and ‘Nokas’, and the writer, Nikolaj Frobenius’ ‘Dragonfly’ and ‘Sons of Norway’.
I wrote this review long back, after I had watched it at the Bangalore International Film Festival conducted by Suchitra way back in 2007, but somehow didn’t post. Maybe it was much more relevant when the Pepsi and Cola pesticide issue was raging in our country. They were bailed out. Yeah, some people will argue that you will find pesticide count in coconut water but then they forget one key difference, one is not processed, the other is. Amazing how big brands get away with murder, not even a display of contents on the packaging, which is actually mandatory on food products. To hell with ‘secret formula’. We have a right to know what goes into our system.
Useless Trivia : The lead character of ‘An enemy of the people’, according to the Director, is loosely based on Michael Moore.
‘Insomnia’ was director Eric Skjoldbjaerg’s debut feature film and the screenplay was by first-time film writer Nicholaj Frobenius. It screened at Cannes 1997. What a debut. Will review that one as well sometime soon when I just can’t sleep, maybe.