Hans Petter Moland, Norway
OUT STEALING HORSES bares the Norwegian soul: it is rugged, self-reliant, reticent, almost wordless, and teeming with deep-seated repressed feelings. At least that is what the main characters of this film display. Their lives, past and almost present (late 1999), are captured on film amid the sumptuous Norwegian landscapes in magnificent widescreen shots by Danish cinematographer Rasmus Videbæk who won the Silver Bear award for Outstanding Artistic Contribution. It is based on Per Petterson’s acclaimed bestselling novel of the same name.
A grieving widower Trond (Stellan Skarsgård, a very long way from his role as Bill Anderson in MAMA MIA) aged sixty-seven returns to a small village in east Norway to wait in solitude for the new Millennium and Y2K; it is the place he had last spent with his father as a youth of 15. He soon meets a neighbor Lars (Bjørn Floberg) and, after a brief encounter with little dialogue, both discover each other’s identities and their intertwined pasts.
This coming-of age-film lingers on the summer of 1948 when young Trond (Jon Ranes) spends a glorious holiday with his very practical and ruggedly handsome father (Tobias Santelmann, a match for a younger George Clooney) where the value of hard work felling trees and shrugging off pain comes with the territory. The wild horses living unfettered in the forests and grasslands are not only exhilarating to ride, but also a metaphor for the father and son’s own exuberance and freedom. But as the perfect summer days come to an end Trond must learn from his father that things don’t always turn out the way he might have expected: “But that's life. That's what you learn from; when things happen; especially at your age. You just have to take it in and remember to think afterwards and not forget and never grow bitter,” explains his father.
The film is riddled with flashbacks then fast forwards, then flashbacks again. Only in this way can the moviegoer begin to grasp how sixty-seven year old Trond has ended up in that cabin in the woods searching for his soul. In a saga of fathers and sons, Trond has to choose whether to embrace or reject another life lesson from his father: “You decide for yourself when it will hurt.”