Naboer

Not to be confused with the Australian soap, Naboer (Neighbours) is a Norwegian psychological thriller also known as Next Door. Newly single John (Kristoffer Joner) helps the women in the neighbouring apartment to move a cabinet, and ends up with a different kind of Norwegian wood.

Upon its release in 2005 you could literally count the number of 18-rated Norwegian movies on one hand. This was the fifth. There is only one extreme scene (which does make Straw Dogs look like Paw Patrol) but the picture is intense for the short-and-bitter duration, as John deteriorates in a spiral of guilt for reasons that seductively reveal themselves over 75 nightmarish minutes.

A quote on the DVD case calls the film, “An homage to Roman Polanski with nods to CeX,” because I haven’t removed the shop’s sticker – but there are more than a few nods to sex. The women (Cecilie Mosli and Julia Schacht) claiming to be sisters invite John into their cluttered apartment, resembling a bizarre collision of Friends episodes: The One with the Dirty Girl meets The One with the Inappropriate Sister.

That’s when Neighbours becomes Friends becomes Sex Fight Club, recalling David Fincher’s grungy interiors, greenish hue and unreliable narrator (the gaunt John even looks like Ed Norton’s character). The identity of the women is brilliantly implied by the labyrinthine direction and production design; the Hieronymus Bosch paintings lining the elevator suggest they are agents of temptation, while the apartment’s changing architecture hints that John is simply going mad.

The outcome is deeply (and rightly) uncomfortable yet well worth a visit, thanks to Simon Boswell’s Bernard Herrmann-ish score, Joner’s compelling lead performance and Pål Sletaune’s chilly Nordic atmosphere. If lockdown didn’t make you sick of your neighbours, Naboer will.

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