disappearance
In Order of Disappearance: opens Friday Sept. 2 in Berkeley.

During Hollywood’s Golden Age, most major features were produced within the studio system. When you went to the theatre you could expect your show to be prefaced by such familiar logos as the Fox searchlights, the MGM lion, the Paramount peak, the Warner Brothers shield, or (if you weren’t downtown that day) perhaps the RKO radio tower or Columbia statue.

When the system began to break down in the 1960s, those trusty corporate symbols began to go by the wayside. In their stead came government funding bodies and small independent production companies, each with their own ideas about promotional artwork: now it’s not at all unusual for a movie to be preceded by four or five of these less familiar static or animated logos.

This week’s film, In Order of Disappearance (Kraftidioten, opening on Friday, Sept. 2 at Landmark’s Shattuck Cinemas), sets the bar higher still: in addition to the Berlin Film Festival bear, it begins with no less than 14 (14!) corporate logos. We’ll forgive it, though, because the narrative of this Norwegian-Swedish co-production actually does involve a long (and ever growing) list of names.

Set in the icy vastnesses of northernmost Scandinavia, the story revolves around snow-plough operator Nils (a podgy Stellan Skarsgård), recently named Citizen of the Year by the residents of the (fictional) town of Tyos. This is somewhat surprising, we’re told, because he’s Swedish — and apparently the Norwegians don’t particularly care for the Swedes.

On the surface, this backwoods burg lies quiet and snowbound, but beneath lurks deadly criminal activity. Tyos is home base for a thriving drug trade being run through the local airport, where Nils’ son Ingvar works as a baggage handler.

Also on site is Ingvar’s friend Finn, who helps expedite the smooth delivery of large quantities of nose candy on behalf of big-time dealer Ole (Pål Sverre Hagen). When Finn foolishly steals some of the coke for his personal use, the innocent Ingvar is implicated in the theft and murdered by Ole’s heroin wielding hit men.

The local police assure Nils that his son was the victim of an overdose: a drug addict who, let’s be honest, got what he deserved. Nils believes otherwise, and determines to get his revenge by any means necessary.

If you’re impartial to blood, you’re best advised to avoid In Order of Disappearance, which 30 or 40 years ago would have been clumsily dubbed into English and swiftly dispatched to the drive-in and grind-house circuit. Thanks to the likes of Quentin Tarantino, however, the line between ‘exploitation’ and ‘art’ has long since been muddied, and this film is intended for a more refined audience.

My advice is to set aside whatever prejudices you may have regarding so-called genre pictures and/or Mr. Tarantino (regular readers know I can’t stand him), and enjoy a cleverly structured and very enjoyable movie. And while Skarsgard is excellent, the film’s real star is Hagen, whose performance as a pony-tailed, carrot juice sipping vegan bad guy with an extra special way of saying ‘Froot Loops’ is most memorable. Put him on your list of up and coming stars.

Berkeleyside’s film writer John Seal writes a column in The Phantom of the Movies’ Videoscope, an old-fashioned paper magazine, published quarterly. Read more from Big Screen Berkeley on Berkeleyside.

If you like the variety of news on Berkeleyside, you will like the voices we present at Uncharted: The Berkeley Festival of Ideas: two days of provocative thinking, inspiring speakers, workshops, and a big party — all in downtown Berkeley in October. See the list of speakers.  

Freelancer John Seal is Berkeleyside’s film critic. A movie connoisseur with a penchant for natty hats who lives in Oakland, John writes a weekly film recommendation column at Box...