Terribly Happy
Oscilloscope Laboratories // Unrated // $29.99 // July 13, 2010
Review by Chris Neilson | posted July 19, 2010
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Graphical Version
Terribly Happy (Frygtelig lykkelig), Denmark's official submission to the 2010 Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film, is a black comedy steepped in the neo-noir of the Coen brothers' Blood Simple and David Lynch's Blue Velvet. On probation following a lapse of judgment he'd prefer not to discuss, Copenhagen cop Robert Hansen (Jakob Cedergren) is reassigned to Skarrild, a remote town in barren, bog-infested South Jutland where "everyone knows everything but says nothing." Estranged from his wife and daughter, Robert hopes to pass an uneventful tour of duty as town marshal and then return to Copenhagen, but his attempt to present himself as a professionally-remote, by-the-book lawman comes undone when he's pulled into a complicated domestic dispute between femme fatale Ingelise Buhl (Lene Maria Christensen) and her husband, town bully Jørgen Buhl (Kim Bodnia).

A banged-up Ingelise comes to Robert seeking comfort, alleging abuse from Jørgen, but refusing to press charges. For his part, Jørgen reveals his own scars and claims that Ingelise's wounds are self-inflicted. Robert is drawn into the marital discord by sexual advances from Ingelise and thinly-veiled threats from Jørgen.

The townspeople of Skarrild are witness, jury, and justice to the transgressions of their neighbors. As Robert is told by the townspeople whenever he proposes involving the machinations of the formal legal system, "we handle things ourselves here." The townspeople are not motivated merely by a sense of frontier justice, but also by a rigid code of conduct extending all the way down to how laundry should be properly hung to dry. "That's not how we do things here" are words of admonition and threat in Skarrild.

Made susceptible by his own loneliness, Robert is increasingly pulled into the marital strife between Ingelise and Jørgen until a monumentally bad decision sets in motion a chain of increasingly compromising events that seals the fates of Ingelise, Jørgen and Robert.

Presentation
Terribly Happy is available on a single region-free, NTSC, dual-layered DVD from Oscilloscope Laboratories, packaged in handsome quad-fold cardboard case and slipcover.

Video & Audio:
Terribly Happy is presented in anamorphic 2.35:1 widescreen. The progressive image is clean and sharp. Colors appear dark with a palate tending toward bluish-grey and sepia, but likely just as it was presented theatrically.

Danish 5.1 and 2.0 DD audio options are available, along with optional English subtitles. The soundscape is imersive with good directionality.

Extras:
Extras include an English-language audio commentary with director Henrik Ruben Genz and producer Thomas Gammeltoft which is interesting despite some gaps and a bit of struggling with the language; a 21-minute behind-the-scenes featurette, and two playful clips with Genz and author Erling Jepsen, each under three minutes.

Final Thoughts:
The events in Terribly Happy are driven by a series of bad decisions by the protagonist. Though his actions skew too far from the reasonable to be believable in a conventional narrative, they're acceptable within the confines of this comedy noir. Viewers who appreciate the films of the Coen brothers will also likely enjoy this offbeat psychological thriller.



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