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Monday, May 23, 2011

Review: Next Door (2005)

aka Naboer

Next Door is a Norwegian thriller that could be favorably compared to some of the darker works of Roman Polanski, or maybe David Lynch.  It is an intense exploration of sex, violence, paranoia and obsession - which doesn’t break any boundaries in storytelling - but is highly watchable and perfectly executed.

In the film's opening, John’s girlfriend Ingrid has returned to claim some of her belongings after having left him for another man.  John attempts to make sense of their breakup during her visit, but Ingrid refuses to discuss the matter, obviously uncomfortable in his presence, only stating that she's spoken of their relationship to her new love interest.  John becomes confrontational upon this discovery and Ingrid quickly takes her leave.

John then meets Anne, a neighbor he didn’t know he had, who asks his aid in moving a piece of furniture in her apartment.  He also meets her roommate Kim and the provocative pair admits that through the thin walls they know all about John’s separation.  He leaves rather alarmed by the odd exchange and is later told privately by Anne that Kim had once been assaulted by the previous tenant of his flat.

John's next confrontation with Kim results in some rough sex between them, which seems to revolt the young man after its conclusion.  Both women soon begin playing strange head-games with John, seemingly in an attempt to get him to admit and accept his dysfunctions.  Then Kim provokes him into another tryst with her and this episode becomes even more violent than before.  As things progress John becomes increasingly confused as to what is real and what isn't, forcing him to come to terms with his aberrant past.

Pål Sletaune's direction is almost flawless.  Kristoffer Joner truly puts in a powerhouse performance as a man pushed to his limits, while the three women are equally persuasive in their own respective roles.  The film is beautifully photographed, well-scored, has challenging subject matter; is punctuated by arresting images and it elicits a true sense of claustrophobia.  In fact, the atmosphere is almost too foreboding, making a reveal near the end a little obvious, but still very impressionable.

While Next Door might have a tad bit of predictability working against it; on the bright side it's composed thoughtfully enough to keep you engrossed throughout.  It pulls you down into its mystery and rarely lets you up for air.  The mixture of sex and violence might shock more sensitive viewers, but I found this aspect of the narrative, honestly, the most refreshing.  It's a very compelling and edgy psychological shocker that deserves to be seen by a wider audience.

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