Two decidedly divergent Norwegian love stories

Dual film review: The Trip and Royalteen

John Smistad
Olympia, Wash.

The Trip (2021): A couple of cutthroats!

The Trip

Photo: Alamy
Norwegian Aksel Hennie and Swedish Noomi Rapace are the ultimate dysfunctional couple in The Trip.

Synopsis: A deviously dysfunctional couple head to a remote cabin, each with covert intent to kill the other. But before they can carry out their perverse plans, unexpected visitors drop in. Suddenly, this grossly impaired pair are presented with an even greater danger.

When a swift shovel to the back of the head is only just getting this pandemonium party percolatin’ you know you are in for one rip-roarin’ rambunctious ride. Oh, you’ll get that and a helluva lot more in 2021’s deliriously duh-hark comedy crime thriller The Trip (released in Norway as I onde dager, In bad days).

Swedish Noomi Rapace and Norwegian Aksel Hennie are at the center of the storm as Lisa and Lars, a Norwegian entertainment industry couple whose marriage has crashed face-first into the rocks. So unctuous has this union become that each spouse has hatched their own perverse plan to do in the other while on vacation at a remote lakeside house in the woods.

But before either can get about finishing off what they started, three uninvited male guests suddenly drop in, literally, crashing down from out of the attic onto the master bedroom floor. Freshly escaped from prison, the trio is desperate, ruthless, and on the run.

Things can only get gorier from here.

And, man, do they ever. Death, destruction, and debauchery on a silly stupid scale ensues. And in quite creative fashion, too, as delivered to us with delight most deviant, courtesy of writer/director Tommy Wirkola.

Before all is said and done-in amid the delirious din, we watch wide-eyed as weapons ranging from billiard balls stuffed in a sock, whirring lawn mower blades, and powerboat propellers (along with more conventional means of malice like knives and a good ol’ fashioned double-barrel shotgun) disfigure and dispose of character upon crucified character.

Some may see the over-the-top mayhem presented in The Trip as cartoonish. So granted. But this sure ain’t the cutesy kid stuff of Tom and Jerry or Pepé Le Pew.

Nope. More like animating the degenerate deeds of Bonnie and Clyde or the Marquis de Sade.

And though you would not imagine such to be the case, what we wind up with here is a love story. And definitely not of the syrupy sweet romantic variety, either. No, much rather that of mutual blind affection for a bulging bank account.

One that is feverishly fed by, and amassed at the expense of, a misguidedly sympathetic and ever-gullible public.

And now, with all due props to the great Monty Python, for something completely different…

Like, Norwegian and Swedish different, brødre og søstre, brothers and sisters.

Enter last year’s un-run-of-the-mill romantic drama Royalteen

Royalteen (2022)

Royalteen

Photo: Netflix
Royalteen is the unconventional tale of a Norwegian prince and the new girl in school.

Synopsis: This is the unconventional tale of a Norwegian prince and the new girl in school. The two quickly develop feelings for each other but are constantly on guard that their relationship might spiral into an impossible situation. While he must put an entire nation on his shoulders, she carries dark deception on hers.

If you think that this sounds like it’s a PG parable aimed squarely at the tween set and younger, then think again. For this is a frank fable fashioned for young adults and older that has amply earned it’s Norwegian TV-MA classification and then some.

Royalteen serves as the poster child for why we have that familiar phrase, “Parental discretion advised.” No joke.

The filmmakers (three co-writers and dual-directors) thrust their audience into a blunt and unblinking exploration of substance abuse, social media character assassination, teen sex and their potential repercussions, and the wanton privilege perpetrated upon the masses of massively less wealth and power.

Ines Høysæter Asserson is incandescent here as Lana, a young woman with an already well established sordid past. And the present only continues to punish her with relentless threat from those heartlessly wronged compounded by the constant fear of exposing that which Lana desperately struggles to keep a secret.

Add to this a burgeoning love affair with the dashing Kalle, who just so happens to be the Prince of Norway (Mathias Storhøi in an engagingly vulnerable performance), and you have got one teenage gal being tumultuously tested a bit beyond determining which pair of Nikes will look hottest with that new sweater.

It is not at all clear what to make of these final seconds that abruptly conclude Royalteen. Is this malignancy infesting from within unmercifully manifesting itself on the surface? Are we watching the afflictions of the mother at last being visited upon on the vulnerable child?

Or is it simply an alarming case of an age-old truth that has come to pass.

No matter our station in life, in the end, we all justly reap that which we have sown.

The Trip and Royalteen are both streaming now on Netflix.

This article originally appeared in the July 2023 issue of The Norwegian American.

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John Smistad

John Smistad is a published author of short stories, poems, essays, and movie reviews. He lives and loves with his family and cat in the Puget Sound area of Washington state. He is the fiercely proud son of a native Norwegian dad. (He loves his mom, too.) You can follow him as on his blog at thequickflickcritic.blogspot.com.