NEW TO THEATERS! Director Christoffer Boe’s relationship drama A Taste of Hunger (Smagen af sult), co-written by Boe and Tobias Lindholm, keenly examines the perils of work-life balance. By having his central couple work at an upscale restaurant vying for that highest of culinary accolades, the Michelin star, the Danish filmmaker ups the ante to the nth degree. Whether the heated emotions and continual stresses are reasons or just catalysts for the deterioration of their romance is just one of the intriguing questions raised in this contemplative, stirring feature.
The couple are Carsten (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and Maggie (Katrin Greis-Rosenthal). Their crisis begins when two crucial events occur: a Michelin inspector allegedly gets served over-fermented lemons at their restaurant, and Maggie intercepts an incriminatory letter meant for her husband. The plot then delves deeper into their relationship, Boe skillfully demonstrating how past events shape current ones.
The filmmaker knows his way around a scene, catching seemingly small details that echo and resonate. For example, an irregular mole on Maggie’s back becomes a precursor (of sorts) to potential infidelity. Another sequence, wherein Maggie temporarily loses sight of her life and her child, perfectly exemplifies how we all get caught up in an emotional maelstrom. The final confrontation is handled with subtlety and wisdom.
“…[a] couple work at an upscale restaurant vying for that highest of culinary accolades, the Michelin star…”
With A Taste of Hunger, it is clear that Boe loves food. The film celebrates the culinary arts, as the cinematography lovingly displays exquisite dishes that please the eye as much as the taste buds. He studies how light and sound may affect taste. His approach to gastronomy is as meticulous as the dishes his protagonist prepares.
The chiseled Coster-Waldau is splendid, prone to outbursts but introverted, ruthless in the kitchen, borderline-obsessive about food. “You talk about it too much,” his daughter gently scolds him. The actor sells every minute of his inner torment, seeking recognition and companionship. “You deserve better,” he tells Maggie at one point. “When was the last time you felt happy?”
Greis-Rosenthal radiates charisma and elegance, mesmerizing with her soulful doe eyes that emanate worlds. Unfortunately, Charlie Gustafsson fares worse as Frederik, his pivotal character not quite awarded enough time, nor depth, to justify his drastic effect on the plot. Perhaps it was purposeful to juxtapose his babyish nature against Carsten’s dominating alpha male; perhaps his identity is beside the point. Yet it still lingers, feeling underdeveloped.
We inspire each other and become one another’s muses. We partner up and reach toward our dreams. Then days darken, the passion dissipates, and these halcyon days become mere memories, foggy with nostalgia. We make mistakes but continue to reach out. It’s that hunger that drives us, and A Taste of Hunger offers us a scrumptious morsel to bite into.
"…the cinematography lovingly displays exquisite dishes that please the eye as much as the taste buds."