By Rich Cline | January 1, 2003

With a kind of “Full Monty” premise, this documentary takes us to the Arctic Norwegian village of Berlevag, where the men have formed a choir in order to fill in their spare time. Most of them are unemployed, due to the declining fishing industry, and the film examines their daily life, rehearsals and finally a trip to perform in Murmansk, Russia. It’s punctuated with the choir singing their hymns and folk anthems in odd places all around Berlevag.
Director Jensen cleverly avoids commenting on the men or their lives, just letting their surroundings speak for themselves. But he completely misses the chance to really explore the dynamics of the community or this strange group of men, which spans several generations. We only get tiny glimpses into their interaction–mostly on the long bus ride into Russia–and these are the most intriguing things here. An argument about communism is easily the highlight of the film. These are interesting people, but we never get to know them at all. We have to work hard to find any meaning between scenes of the choir trying to sing amid snowstorms along the stormy coastline. And while it’s all very sweet, the music is annoying, mopey and funereal. (Do not be tempted to buy the soundtrack; you’ll only listen to it once!) Less singing and more of the film’s gentle humour, offbeat personalities and astonishing locations would have helped a lot.

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