September 28, 2004
By Gunnar Rehlin
One of the best Norwegian films made in many years, "Hawaii, Oslo" proves it's still possible to do exciting work in the sub-genre created by such exceptional pictures as "Short Cuts" and "Magnolia." The story of a bunch of people inter-connecting during a night in Oslo is set to become a box office hit on its home turf, with successful fest exposure and international sales looming.
A man running desperately through the Oslo night is pursued by another man on a bicycle. An ambulance comes charging through the darkness, carrying a young couple with a sick child. The ambulance passes a couple standing on the sidewalk. Suddenly, there is an accident. As people gather around site, the narration goes back to the day before, and to the events that have led to this unfortunate gathering of people who previously did not know each other.
Vidar (Trond Espen Seim) works as an orderly at an asylum. One of the inmates is Leon (Jan Gunnar Roise), a kleptomaniac. Leon is waiting for Asa (Evy Kasseth Rosten), a childhood sweetheart. Ten years earlier, they agreed to meet on this day to decide if they want to get married. This old promise is all that's been on Leon's mind. Also mindful of the promise, Asa is traveling to Oslo to keep the appointment.
Leon's prison inmate brother Trygve (Aksel Hennie) is granted leave to celebrate his brother's birthday, but has plans to use the few hours of freedom to commit more crimes. His dream is to escape to Hawaii. (Pic's title also stems from an Oslo bar named Hawaii, where Leon and Asa are supposed to meet.)
Frode (Stig Henrik Hoff) and Milla (Silje Torp Faerevaag) need to get their sick child to the U.S. for an expensive operation. The grief-stricken parents desperately try to get money, but to no avail. It seems their child is doomed.
During the course of the day these people, plus suicidal ex-celeb Bobbie-Pop (Petronella Barker), connect culminating in the accident, and a truly out-of-this-world final shot.
Helmer Erik Poppe made his debut in 1998 with "Schpaaa," a realistic and tragic story of young boys turning to crime on the seedy side of Oslo. This sophomore effort reveals him as a cinematic poet, creating a film full of both haunting and beautiful images where everything might not be as real as it seems.
After numerous "Short Cuts" and "Magnolia" wannabes, "Hawaii, Oslo" feels fresh and invigorating. Characters are interesting, pace is fast without being forced, and the outcome is satisfactory (even if some developments are somewhat predictable). Lenser Ulf Brantas (a Swede who shot Lukas Moodysson's first three features) has created moody, somewhat stylized image of Oslo by night. All other tech credits are above par and actors are fine.
--Gunnar Rehlin/ Variety - Review
March 4, 2006
By Svet Atanasov
The fact that Scandinavia has been producing some of the most daring and original films in recent years is hardly news anymore. Denmark, Finland, Sweden, and now Norway seem to be growing up a generation of talented filmmakers that will have plenty to say in the years to come. I sense a great deal of excitement in the region and more importantly there seems to be an impressive willingness from both directors and actors to be as productive as possible.
One of the truly entertaining films I saw last year was what Norway selected as their Oscar-entry in 2004. The film in question: Erik Poppe's Hawaii, Oslo (2004). A colorful mosaic of unusual human stories Hawaii, Oslo takes place during one of Norway's hottest summer nights in…well, the Norwegian capital Oslo. There we meet five different characters that will eventually have their lives intertwined in a most unusual way.
The first character we see is a man working on the supporting staff of the local hospital in Oslo. The little that we manage to learn about him is that he sleeps and dreams a lot often seeing events inspired by "reality". In one of those dreams the man sees a favorite patient who gets killed by a rushing ambulance.
The second character in Hawaii, Oslo is a woman undergoing a severe identity crisis. Once again from the little that we are provided with it appears that years ago the woman abandoned her children and left with another man in search for a better life. We see her holding a small medicine bottle while silently feeding her little kitty with a deadly dose of sleeping pills. In a matter of minutes the woman will attempt to take her own life.
The third character is a young man locked up in a state penitentiary who has been granted a day off to attend the birthday of his mentally-challenged brother. He appears visibly excited, in good spirit, and ready to surprise his brother. The man wears a red Hawaiian shirt with some funny looking yellow flowers. He has decided that the short "day-off" will indeed be the last time he would have to change clothes under the piercing eyes of the nearby prison guard.
The fourth character we see is a thirty-something man, drenched in sticky sweat, holding in his shaky hands his newly-born son. The man appears happy, overly-excited, and unsure what would be the best name for his baby. A few hours from now the medical staff at Oslo's most prestigious hospital will reveal to him that his son has a deadly heart-complication that will cut the blood flow to his tiny body in about a week. The doctors will suggest that it would be best if the man and his wife spend as much time with their son as possible.
The fifth character is a man who suffers from periodic anxiety attacks forcing him to perform in some rather strange ways. The man has been waiting for ten years to reunite with his high school sweetheart who has arrived in Oslo to celebrate his birthday. In a few hours the man will also be surprised by his older brother who has just flown in from Hawaii.
Before I began writing the review for Hawaii, Oslo I debated for a long time whether or not I should provide the names of the main characters in this story. Why? I thought that it would be great if somehow I preserved the sense of chaos Hawaii, Oslo delivers during the first half-hour. I decided to leave you unprepared and as much as possible unsure about what would happen in this film just as I was uncertain about how exactly Erik Poppe will manage to link all of the tiny stories together. So, I hope that Hawaii, Oslo has the same effect on you as it had on me.
With all of the above being said there is no other way to summarize this film but to say that it is indeed one of the best-produced Norwegian pictures in quite some time. Hawaii,
--Svet Atanasov/ DVD Talk - Review