Naboer | Norway/Denmark/Sweden | 2005 | Directed by Pål Sletaune
Logline: A man who has recently been dumped by his girlfriend becomes embroiled in the strange and seductive behaviour of his two neighbours, only to find his grip on reality disintegrating.
The word “naboer” in Norwegian means “neighbours” and it’s a more accurate description of the movie, but accuracy is not what this movie intends to deliver. This is a movie about fractured perspective and delusion, it’s fantasy vs reality, dream into nightmare. It’s a superbly constructed thriller body with a sharp spine of horror. Hitchcock meets Polanski meets Lynch and all of them getting on like a house on fire.
John (Kristoffer Joner) is visited by his ex, Ingrid (Anna Bache-Wiig), who has come to collect some of her stuff she left in his first storey apartment. She is wary of John, and when her new boyfriend Åke (Michael Nyqvist) honks his horn she waves to him from the window to signal that she is not being threatened. John is bewildered, and insists he would never do anything to harm Ingrid. Ingrid reminds John of his brutal fantasy.
John is approached by his next door neighbour Anne (Cecilie Mosli), who asks for his assistance in moving heavy furniture inside her apartment. She’s a bit odd. John then meets Anne’s friend Kim (Julia Schacht), who is also a bit strange. The two women seem to know something John doesn’t. Anne slips away, and Kim tries to seduce John with sadomasochistic behaviour. John gets carried away, and things start to get messy. Very messy, indeed.
Next Door is very much a chamber piece. It operates like a piece of theatre, but is undeniably cinematic in the way it is executed. Almost the entire movie takes place inside John and his neighbours’ apartments and in the corridor outside. Like something out of a Lynch movie, the hallway is curved, bending into the unknown, an interior “lost highway”. Like a Polanski movie it is John’s perspective that the audience is locked into, John’s growing unease, his climbing dread, an overwhelming sense that everything is becoming slow and steadily unhinged.
Just who are these two women?!
Sletaune’s screenplay is tight as a drum, and he elicits sensational performances from his small cast, especially Joner and Schacht, and fans of the The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo movies will recognise Nyqvist. The psychosexual thematic content is provocative and edgy. I’m surprised Hollywood hasn’t already remade it for the American palette, it screams to be dominated, but Tinseltown would never be able to make it as good as Sletaune has, unless he’s seduced in the same way George Sluizer was after he made the original Dutch-language The Vanishing, and then five years later remaking it for Hollywood and completely compromising the ending. I shudder to think how Next Door could/would be compromised and ruined.
Next Door’s labyrinthine setting, both literally and figuratively, works wonders; it is claustrophobic, yet curiously expansive. As John’s mind begins to fragment, he fumbles desperately with the truth, scrambling to fit the pieces of his reality jigsaw back together again, only to realise... he hasn’t realised anything. The mind is a fragile, yet malleable thing. Indeed, some doors should never be opened, warns the movie’s tagline. And once opened, they can never be closed.
Do yourself a favour, find this movie (ignore the lame cover art), and watch it, the revelation is a cracker.