Klown: The Movie AKA Klovn: The Movie
R2 - United Kingdom - Arrow Films
Review written by and copyright: Paul Lewis (29th March 2014).
The Film

Klown AKA Klovn: The Movie (Mikkel Nørgaard, 2010)

The big screen version of Danish television comedy Klovn (Klown; Nutmeg Movies/Zentropa Episode, 2005-9), this film follows the further adventures of socially awkward Frank (Frank Hvam), his friend Casper (Casper Christensen), Frank’s girlfriend Mia (Mia Lyhne) and Casper’s wife Iben (Iben Hjejle). Like the series on which it is based, Klovn: The Movie demonstrates a heavy debt to Larry David’s US comedy-of-manners sitcom Curb Your Enthusiasm (HBO, 1999- ). The dynamics within both series are very similar: mirroring the relationship between Larry (Larry David) and his wife Cheryl (Cheryl Hines) in Curb…, in Klovn Frank, whose social ineptitude lands him in a seemingly infinite number of awkward situations, enjoys a tense relationship with his girlfriend Mia, who barely tolerates Frank’s bizarre social behaviour; meanwhile, like Larry’s friend Jeff (Jeff Garlin) and his wife Susie (Susie Essman), Frank’s friend Casper is brash and extrovert but held in check by his domineering wife Iben.

The similarities between Klovn and Curb… exist in the character’s behaviour and relationships, the confusion of fact and fiction (in terms of the actors playing characters who share their names), the use of circus music, the semi-improvised nature of much of the material, the verite-style camerawork, and the plotting – which follows the formula established in Seinfeld (Castle Rock/West-Shapiro, 1989-98), where the complex comic narratives usually revolved around ‘unlikely coincidence, parodic media references, and circular structures’, featuring several narratives that ‘collide with unlikely repercussions throughout the diegesis’ (Jason Mittel, quoted in Folis, 2014: 158). However, Klovn features a heavier focus on sexual content than Curb…, which can also be seen in this film adaptation. It’s hard to imagine Curb… featuring a subplot in which Larry, as with Frank in Klovn: The Movie, is convinced by his equally middle-aged and middle-class friends that he should demonstrate his love for his partner by giving her a ‘pearl necklace’ (not the kind you buy from Tiffany’s) first thing in the morning, only to discover that the sleeping woman over whom he has been masturbating is not Mia but is instead her mother Pykker (Elsebeth Steentoft) – and the ensuing discharge causes damage to her eye which requires her to visit the A&E department of the local hospital and wear a distinctive eyepatch throughout the rest of the film.

Klovn: The Movie’s narrative revolves around Frank and Casper’s annual canoeing trip, which Casper dubs the ‘Tour de Pussy’: away from the eyes of his wife Iben, Casper plans on seducing as many women as possible, with a stop off at the ‘best brothel in Europe’ – a one-night-of-the-year-only club which is run by Bent (Bent Fabricius-Bjerre), who also co-ordinates the book club to which Frank and Casper belong. At the wedding of Mia’s sister, Frank discovers from another guest that Mia is pregnant – but she has not told Frank yet, as she believes him not to possess ‘fatherhood potential’ and is considering an abortion. Frank freely admits that he does not like children, but he is nevertheless displeased at this, and he abducts Mia’s 12 year old nephew Bo (Marcuz Jess Petersen), taking him on the canoeing trip in order to prove his ‘fatherhood potential’.

However, as always with Frank and Casper, things don’t go as planned. Before embarking on the trip, Frank offends Bent by failing to read Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness before the book club meeting (which, as the viewer might guess, leads to Frank being excluded from the brothel later in the film). Frank and Casper’s ‘Tour de Pussy’ comes increasingly to parallel Marlowe’s journey through the Congo in Heart of Darkness, with a series of increasingly bizarre stop-offs on the way to the brothel and the rock festival that Mia and Iben think is the men’s real destination. On the way, the trio camp at Papa Bear’s campsite, where Bo is humiliated by a group of teenaged boys who claim he has a small penis and, after unsuccessfully getting the unrepentant youths to apologise (‘What if you were teased like that?’, Frank asks them; ‘It’d never happen. We don’t have small willies’, one of the boys responds), Frank retaliates by humiliating one of the gang, pulling his trousers down in front of the campsite. Frank is then accused by Papa Bear, the owner of the campsite, of being a paedophile with ‘a willie fixation’. Meanwhile, Casper is accused of rape by one of a group of sixth form students who are on a similar canoeing trip and who are staying at the same campsite. The socially awkward situations escalate as the group head towards the rock festival and exclusive brothel, and Frank’s quest to prove his ‘fatherhood potential’ seems scuppered when Bo is humiliated by the pair who, whilst high after smoking a giant reefer at the festival, joke about Bo’s small penis with other attendees of the festival. Bo flees and ends up in hospital. A guilt-ridden Frank makes it his mission to help Bo achieve his dream: a scale model of Underberg delivery van that can only be acquired by collecting 288 caps from bottles of Underberg.

The film is uncut and runs for 89:32 mins (PAL).

Video

Shot digitally, the film is presented here in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, with anamorphic enhancement. The film has an unfussy aesthetic, with much verite-style camerawork. It is presented here in a handsome transfer which shows the characteristics of much shot-on-video material (which still lacks the dynamic range of analogue film). It’s a perfectly fine transfer which is free from problems.


Audio

Audio is presented via a Dolby Digital 5.1 track (in Danish) with optional English subtitles. For the most part, the track doesn’t make much use of the surround tracks, although the sound mix comes alive when the group arrive at the rock festival.

The English subtitles are free of issues and clear at all times.

Extras

Sadly, the disc contains no contextual material – a shame, considering how little-known the series on which this film is based is within the UK.

There are startup trailers (skippable) for The Taste of Money, Exit and A Hijacking (3:33).

Packaging

Overall

As the film progresses, the situations in which Frank and Casper find themselves become increasingly awkward and, because of this, often deeply funny. There are some jokes that seem to require some knowledge of Danish culture (eg, the jokes about Bent Fabric’s past as a musician), but for the most part the jokes in Klovn: The Movie work well for viewers outside Denmark. As noted above, the basic premise of this film (and the television series on which it its based) owes a significant debt to Curb Your Enthusiasm – and fans of Curb… will no doubt find much to enjoy here – but Klovn ups the ante in terms of sexual content, to the extent that as the film progresses the viewer may find themselves squirming with anticipation as to what will come next. (There’s a deeply awkward sequence in which Frank, Bo and Casper are rescued after their canoe capsizes by a woman named Ronja, who invites them to recover at her house. During the night, Frank awakens to find Casper having sex with Ronja in the same bed as him. Casper tells Frank to ‘join in’, but when Frank refuses Casper tells him just to ‘finger her arse’. A disgusted Frank is pressured to do so, but his disgust is writ large across his face.) Fans of the comedy-of-manners sitcom, and especially fans of Curb…, will no doubt enjoy this big screen version of Klovn – and may be interested in tracking down the television series. However, be prepared for some very ribald content.

The presentation of the film on this DVD is very good, but sadly there is no contextual material – this is a shame considering that the series is relatively little-known in the UK, and therefore many viewers will be coming to this film ‘cold’.

References:
Folis, Matt, 2014: Long Form Improvisation and American Comedy. London: Palgrave-Macmillan

 


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