Review: The Tent (2019)

Even the opening joke in Rebecca Figenschau’s The Tent, shown in European Film Academy Candidates sub-program of the Favourites’ sidebar at VIS’ online edition, sounds sour and like an unfitting lid over a boiling pot of emotions. This deep dive into a family dynamics over the course of the first few hours of a camping trip was nominated for the EFA Award at the Encounters Film Festival.

The joke about the tourist on Mallorca envying the family on a camping trip to a local forest is told by the pater familias Bjornar (Sigurd Myhre), but it is obviously too half-hearted even for a dad’s joke. The family considers this particular trip to be a form of a punishment (and we shall find out for what exactly, it is hilarious and should not be spoiled), and all the resentments within the family come to surface.

The typical elements are here: a never-do-well father and his fragile male ego, a constantly nagging mother Solveig (Chistina Nikolaisen), a self-absorbed teenage daughter Maja (Erica Cook) obsessed with social networks and taking selfies with a cigarette as a sign of rebellion and the pre-teen son Kim (Christian Magnus Vangen) whose weirdness and hyperactivity are taken quite casually until the damage is done. And there will be a lot of it, starting with a misplaced manual for setting up the titular tent and ending up in fire, both literally and metaphorically.

The classical, evergreen idea about the family resentments resurfacing in the moment of crisis is matched with Figenschau’s sure-handed execution. On the dramaturgical level, the drama and the unpleasant comedy are blended smoothly, while the directorial choices are fitting the bill perfectly. The film is composed from a wider angle static shots and hand-held close-ups filmed by Marte Vold and rhythmically edited by Mathilde Fridlund, while the sound design by Anna Nilsson is filled with the sounds of nature and masks the lack of musical score. The Tent offers 17 minutes of cinematic fun and never outstays its welcome.

Original title: Teltet
Year: 2019
Runtime: 16′ 46”
Country: Norway
Language: Norwegian
Directed by: Rebecca Figenschau
Written by: Rebecca Figenschau
Cast: Sigurd Myhre, Christina Nikolaisen, Erica Cook, Christian Magnus Vangen
Cinematography by: Marte Vold
Editing by: Mathilde Fridlund
Sound design by: Anna Nilsson
Production design by: Catherine Gormsen
Costume design by: Catherine Gormsen
Make-up: Catherine Gormsen
Special effects by: Pal Morten Hverven
Colourist: Fredrik Harreschou
Produced by: Frode Sobstad
Production company: Tenk