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Fantastic Fest 2010: Fatso

Directed by Arild Fröhlich

Fatso’s inclusion in Fantastic Fest seems to be based entirely on its main character’s social incapacity and how that might strike a chord with the kind of people who love fantasy and horror films.  Fantastical only in its use of several erotic daydreams and horrific only in its striking resemblance to reality at its awkwardest, Fatso is not as much a fringe film as a film about living on the fringe.

Our unlikely hero is Rino (Nils Jørgen Kaalstad), a man whose passions include masturbating, drinking, driving around with his sex addict friend, Fillip (Kyrre Hellum), and inking self-hating cartoons about “Captain Cock.”  His daily routine of spending time outside until he comes across something mildly attractive and has to go home to masturbate to is cruelly interrupted one day when his father decides to sublet the house Rino’s currently living in. In moves Malin (Josefin Ljungman), an astonishingly pretty co-ed who almost immediately starts treating him like a big, asexual teddy bear.

From there, Fatso follows Rino’s acclimation and embrace of his new life. He gains confidence and ambition as Malin and her friends genuinely show an interest in his life and laugh at his jokes. He begins to lose patience with Fillip as he starts to connect with people who aren’t complete louses. His physical attraction to Malin develops into a full-on crush. The film essentially describes the universal (I hope) awkward experience of learning to connect with people, and maturing as a person for it. Every small gesture in the film becomes earth shattering–as when watching Rino excitedly prepare for a party and then watching it slowly dawn on him that he’s still old, fat, and socially inept–and the actors, especially Kaalstad, bring a practiced subtly to their performances.  Malin and Fillip are the most at risk of becoming cartoonish plot elements, but when their characters are at their most absurd, they just make Rino seem all the more sympathetic and identifiable.

This could have all been for naught, though, if Fatso had stayed true to its romantic comedy leanings.  But Arild Fröhlich is a cool realist, and while the characters get their happy endings, they are nontraditional for a film like this. Don’t expect to see plot and character abandoned for the sake of a tidy, cathartic ending. Both Rino and Malin end the film with the same baggage and the same station in life, but with a maturity that allows them to make healthy decisions about their own lives. Fatso beautifully captures a period of life that’s hard, scary even, to catch on film, and for that alone it is a success. This is the kind of film that The 40-Year-Old-Virgin could have been if it weren’t a studio-bankrolled romantic comedy.

Emmet Duff

Visit the official website for Fantastic Fest 2010