What is the color of the milk

FILM REVIEW / 006: "The color of milk" - Lost dreams ... (SB)


From the Norwegian director Torun Lian

Setting the course for pre- and post-pubertal route management ...

At first glance, "The Color of Milk" by Norwegian director Torun Lian depicts the reality of life for young people in a very affectionate way. However, they grow up in an affluent society that fundamentally bypasses the conditions in which most children grow up today. The children are on summer vacation, the sun is laughing, and they have the lovely long day to frolic around as they please, think up something, lazy, swim or just philosophize about God and the world. There are no material problems here, parents are available around the clock if necessary, the questions that everything revolves around are interpersonal in nature: a wedding has to be organized and falls through, disputes between family members, and the question of "who." with whom". Even if these problems seem minor in view of the increasingly worsening struggles for existence - for those affected they are huge and bind their entire thinking.

It is the same with Selma (Julia Krohn), the 12-year-old heroine, from whose perspective the film tells. It appears as a rebellious spirit, who refreshingly rebels against existing norms and, instead of following the mapped out path, prefers to grapple with philosophical and scientific questions. She describes herself as "the greatest natural disaster", after all, when she was born, she caused the death of her mother. She also looks at love from this point of view.

No one has ever blamed her for her mother's death, she came to this conclusion herself. In addition, in her opinion, men are an obsolete model that will disappear from the scene in the not too distant future. You don't need them. When asked about her future plans, she usually replies that she wants to be a Nobel Prize laureate and is very serious about it herself. On the other hand, she rejects pretty much everything that she experiences in her environment: She thinks boys are stupid, relationships in themselves too, there is a lot to complain about about her father and her friends commit treason in her eyes when she takes the oath they took , not messing with boys, break up.

Unfortunately, the film indicates quite early on - and that is what it is really saying - that Selma is not to be taken very seriously in her endeavors. And not because she wants to become a scientist, but because, in a prepubescent manner, she rejects any thought of love and relationship.

At first glance, it is understandable from the way the film is presented that Selma rebels against growing up and especially against her future role as a woman, given that her aunt Nora (Ane Dahl Torp) and her uncle Rikard (Kim Sörensen) give her a deterrent A picture of what this could look like one day: Nora is about to get married, but keeps getting into trouble with her fiancé over trivialities. You split up and make up again. The behavior of the young woman seems irrational: sometimes she rejects her bridegroom completely, then again she does everything to bind him to her. Apparently their only purpose in life consists of these power games. Like Selma, she seems to have problems adjusting to the role expected of her.

Is that really supposed to be all? asks Selma and sees herself and Andy (Bernhard Naglestad), who has a crush on her, already in the same position. Even if their relationship were more harmonious, does the love between a man and a woman really have to be what a person's life is all about?

After the betrayal of her two friends, she actually only feels really understood by Andy. She shares her scientific and philosophical reflections with him, moves around with him, he stands by her when there is a dispute with the others. Andy always appears in the cinematic representation as the one who knows what he wants and pursues it purposefully and in a straight line. Even when she deals with scientific questions, Selma is portrayed as being emotionally driven and fluctuating. As a viewer, you know from the first moment that Andy is less interested in science than she is. In return, Selma has to learn that she is interested in the boy.

The film, and with it the viewer, tend to take the boy's point of view and find him sensible in his endeavors. Selma's child head is inevitably ridiculed, for example when she says that Andy stimulates her intellectually while he reveals to her that he finds her physically attractive. The fact that, instead of choosing relationship, love and marriage as the linchpin of her life, she prefers to focus on scientific research, does not seem entirely believable. It becomes bitter when she realizes that despite her rejection she feels drawn to the opposite sex.

"Well," thinks Selma, "I can't accept human nature either, if it imposes such physical constraints." But it is difficult for her to put this idea into practice, there is the mysterious Swede (Gustaf Skarsgard) who does an internship on the "moon" during the summer, where the cows are milked. Again and again her thoughts revolve around the ten years older than her. He has given her a riddle: "What color is the milk?", And this question does not leave Selma alone because of her urge to research. She discusses it with Andy. Finally they experiment together, and Andy finds the answer, not them: Inside, where there is no light, the milk should be black.

The subliminal message is conveyed here to the target audience of the adolescents that, no matter how painful it may be, in the end there is no way around giving up one's desire for a life other than childish. Growing up means making compromises, saying goodbye to lofty goals, your desires and dreams. The sooner you realize this and get into the post-pubertal phase, the less painful the process.

In this film, the adult world meets the rebellious girl for the most part with well-meaning patience; her views are rated as temporary, adolescent rebellion. There is seldom scolding, she is apparently given all freedom, but again and again she is gently pushed in the direction in which the adults believe it should go. Selma will already find her way, they think, just as they themselves, after phases of disagreement, finally accepted the pre-punched concepts such as the two-person relationship.

But at least: While this conflict-ridden development phase in Hollywood productions, which is commonly referred to as "puberty", is mostly based on dialogues such as "Is everything okay?" and "Everything will be fine, I promise you", you get at least a more differentiated picture here. The freedoms of adolescents in a Norwegian idyll are not glorified as a "happy childhood".

Lian takes the children of the addressed age group seriously, and with it the problem that they rightly feel misunderstood, which also explains the numerous awards, especially from children's juries at children's film festivals (including the children's film award of the Nordic Film Institute at the last Nordic Film Days in Lübeck).

Precisely because she has so much understanding for this phase of life that is critical for growing up, she could have broken a lance in her film for a greater scope for development of uninfluenced, freely designed life ideas. Because the more requirements from society as mandatory, i.e. "normal", the less chance there is for a very young person to develop according to his or her interests. The film is reduced in its message to the fact that it is sensible to fit into the existing conditions.

In the filmmaker's eyes, this is also rooted in myths: "I'm writing, and in the course of this process it just becomes increasingly clear that I'm just rewriting old myths with the same archetypes, but again. Outwardly, I withdraw the stories from what surrounds me, but actually I only get involved with archetypes and myths. I use them or they use me, "said Lian in an interview with Jan Erik Holst, the head of the international department at the Norwegian Film Institute. The film is based on one of her short stories, which is actually set in the 8th century BC. "Back then, young girls were given a shroud for their wedding because so many of them died while giving birth to their children. Loving them actually endangered their lives mythical truth. "

The author sees this "truth" as so irrefutable that even centuries later she is not in a position to stand up for the interests of young women who may not die today but have to give up part of themselves . By resorting to an alleged "myth", she rather consolidates the conventional views and presents this in a digestible way for today's audience. A learning process takes place almost imperceptibly before the eyes of the viewer, which he should really know because he has gone through it himself.

So at the end, after inner struggles and under the guidance of an already adult, Selma finds the recognized path. Although she sees "love as the greatest disaster", she calls Andy and repeats what she concluded: "Sometimes it takes a while to realize who is the right one for you." When she met Andy afterwards and asked him: 'Are we going together now?' Confirmed by a nod, tears run down her cheeks, tears that flow not least because she knows that she is giving up dreams for which she could not even find words. It is to be feared that their rebellious spirit will gradually die out completely. Those around you will take note with goodwill that it was good to let this "defiant head" have their way and that the learning process took place.

This film will appeal to the target group of children from nine years of age, as the story certainly confirms their lack of understanding. Rather, however, it may be recommended to parents for a better understanding, who have forgotten how problematic and conflict-laden it was in the supposedly "happy childhood". Perhaps one must even be grateful today that this topic is raised at all, albeit with the wrong thrust, instead of making it taboo in such a way that every girl who has a problem putting herself in this role is immediately considered not quite is properly pathologized.

January 29, 2007

In theaters: February 8, 2007

Original title: "Ikke Naken"
Actors: Julia Krohn, Bernhard Naglestad,
Reidar Sörensen, Andrine Saeter, Ane Dahl Torp
Director: Torun Lian
Screenplay: Torun Lian, based on their own
Original novel "Ikke naken, ikke kledt"
Norway 2004
90 minutes
Approved for ages 6 and over, recommended for ages 9 and up

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