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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Under the Sun (Under solen)
Under the Sun (Under solen)
New Yorker Video // Unrated // February 17, 2004
List Price: $29.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Holly E. Ordway | posted February 19, 2004 | E-mail the Author
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The movie

Nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the Academy Awards, Under the Sun (Under solen) is an unassuming, delightful film, one that explores love, loneliness, and friendship through the lives of three people in rural 1950s Sweden. Olof is a kind and gentle soul who depends on his younger friend Erik to help him around the farm, especially since Olof doesn't know how to read. It's still a lonely life, though, and one day Olof decides to do something about it: he places an advertisement in the newspaper for a housekeeper. A young woman housekeeper, to be exact... and "photograph appreciated." And so we meet Ellen, a beautiful and slightly mysterious woman from the city, who becomes an important part of Olof's life very quickly.

Under the Sun is very much a character-centered film, and it rewards our interest in the characters by developing them over the course of the story into three-dimensional, compelling people. Olof, Ellen, and Erik are complex characters who reveal more of themselves as the story progresses; Olof and Ellen become more and more sympathetic, and Erik less so, but in all three cases, we discover more of their depth as the film goes on, so that by the time the film concludes, we really understand who these people are and why they do what they do.

The story of Under the Sun is fairly straightforward, in the sense that the narrative develops naturally from beginning to end, without any artificial twists or turns in the story; however, it's not in the least predictable. Without a lot of fanfare, Under the Sun sets up a situation with several elements of uncertainty, and because the characters are interesting and sympathetic, we look forward to resolving those uncertainties. The natural tension in the story increases as it comes nearer to its end, because we start to see that the story could end, quite naturally, in several different ways. What will become of Olof and Ellen? What's her secret? To what extent is Erik just taking advantage of Olof, and to what extent is he a genuine friend?

The film is framed by a quote from Ecclesiastes, that there is "nothing new under the sun," and presumably the film's title comes from this. I was never able to figure out exactly what this referred to, or how it connected to the story; similarly, I'm not sure what the significance is of the recurring images of the airplane flying across the open sky. One aspect of the title that does come across is its reference to the endless daylight of the Swedish summer: everything that takes place in Under the Sun takes place in daylight. It's an interesting reminder that we are in a different place, and adds to the charm of the film.

In the end, Under the Sun wraps up everything in a quite satisfying manner. As a love story, it works very well because it lets the situation develop naturally, and lets us come to care about the characters at our own pace, with no manipulation of our emotions. And because it's a very character-centered piece, with excellent performances all round, Under the Sun is the kind of film that merits repeat viewing as well, with the lovely music and cinematography just adding to the enjoyment of this lyrical film.

The DVD

Video

Under the Sun has received a very nice transfer from New Yorker Video. The film's original widescreen aspect ratio of 2.35:1 is preserved, and the image is anamorphically enhanced. If you're inclined to take the excellent image quality for granted, just take a look at the trailer that's included on the DVD: you'll discover that Under the Sun has been given a thorough restoration and cleaning for its DVD release. The print is clean and free of any dirt or flaws; edge enhancement is minimal; and colors look great. The film's warm, rich color palette comes across very well here, with natural and vibrant colors.

To complete the high-quality treatment of Under the Sun, the English subtitles are optional.

Audio

The Swedish Dolby 2.0 soundtrack offers a very pleasing audio experience for Under the Sun. Dialogue is always clear and natural-sounding, and the lovely musical score by Paddy Maloney perfectly complements the film. Optional English subtitles are included.

Extras

The only special feature here is the original theatrical trailer for the film.

Final thoughts

Under the Sun is a very pleasing film, one that offers a charming, character-centered story that develops naturally from beginning to end. The 118-minute film is well paced, always developing nicely and moving on at an unhurried but steady pace. The excellent anamorphic transfer to DVD puts the final touch on Under the Sun; I'll give it a strong "recommended."

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