White Snow, Black Comedy
What is it that makes snow-set films so appealing? The whited-out spaces that give images a purity of design? The emptiness that conjures the spirit of old westerns? The cinematography that puts figures in vast landscapes?
‘Prize Idiot’ probably wasn’t the best title for a movie, so this new Scandi-noir starring Stellan Skarsgard has been retitled ‘In Order Of Disappearance’ for international audiences, and it catches the right tone of white snow and black comedy from the outset. Skarsgard’s job is to keep the roads open, driving a vast snowblower back and forth over inundated roads. As a transplanted Norwegian immigrant he’s a model citizen and an ideal future political candidate. But when his baggage-handler son is picked off by drug importers, he sets about taken revenge in the most basic way possible, by simply removing and disposing of everyone in the chain of command one by one. And after each kill, an RIP for that character appears on the screen.
It’s not formulaic, though. His route to the top of complicated by other factors and there’s a jet black seam of deadpan humour running through the action, from the kingpin’s horribly decorated house (who’d have a drug dealer’s taste for decor?) to the banter of both cops and gangsters arguing about everything from ‘Top Gun’ to the welfare system in Portugal. And many tiny details humanise the characters, like the gangster who’s unsure whether he’s allowed to sit on his boss’s white leather armchair.
Meanwhile the villains drop like flies as Skarsgard heads toward the unkillable No.1 man, and the cops are really only around to comment drily from the sidelines. The women don’t get much of a look-in; I wanted to know more about Skarsgard’s wife, but there are good scenes with the dealer’s ex – nobody is happily married in this film, and there are moments of laugh-aloud genius.
If you like ‘Fargo’ or the Coen Brothers, this pretty much has your snow-print on it.