Written and directed by Bent Hamer
Norwegian writer-director Bent Hamer’s 1001 Grams is a low-key but likeable romantic comedy, built around an endearing central premise. The protagonist Marie (Ane Dahl Torp) works for her father Ernst (Stein Winge) at the Norwegian Institute of Weights and Measures, performing calibrations on equipment ranging from petrol pumps to weighing scales. When he suddenly dies of a heart attack, Marie is required to attend an annual conference at the International Bureau of Weights and Measures in Paris, where she must safely take the national prototype – the Norwegian kilo – to be verified against the global standard.
The kilo is stored in a padded case and protected from contact with the outside world by a series of glass bell jars. Apart from causing issues for Marie when she tries to take it through customs, this arrangement reflects her own ordered but isolated lifestyle. Living alone in a sparsely-furnished identikit apartment, she spends her evenings in dim lamplight, surrounded by packed boxes which suggest it is not yet – or no longer – her home. She drives a Buddy electric car, which scarcely looks like it has room for one, and her father is the only person she has any meaningful connection to.
Attending the conference proves to be another dead end for Marie, filled with pseudo-philosophical debates about the impossibility of truly knowing what things weigh and the impact that standardised measurements could have on world peace. However, while waiting around for a taxi after the event, she meets the gardener Pi (Laurent Stocker), who offers her a lift back to her hotel in his own electric car. A former researcher at the facility, he is now working on a more personal project, analysing bird calls and their dialects in various areas of the city. Might he be the man to restore some balance to her life?
Hamer is not afraid to play with the weight metaphor, apparently determined to make use of all its various meanings at some point in the film – “Life’s heaviest burden is to have nothing to carry” is an aphorism the characters regularly refer to. There are some ridiculous lines – “the mother of all kilos” is a case in point– but 1001 Grams achieves greater emotional depth than it really has any right to. It starts slowly, taking far too long to get to the point, but, rarely for this kind of genre, it gets consistently better until the end. The last scene is a perfect blend of character development and humour, with a conclusion and punchline that will guarantee you leave the cinema with a smile.
Backed by a light piano score, Hamer’s comedy is ultimately inconsequential but put together with great care and attention. It has a charming and genuine fascination with all the odd little things that people do with their lives and the curious ways in which the world is held together. Torp is convincing in the lead role, keeping her unhappiness under restraint until it is time to let it go, and the scene that reveals the meaning of the film’s title is strangely touching. An uplifting, quaint and funny film, 1001 Grams is worth its weight, if not in gold, at least in a 90% platinum, 10% iridium blend.
– Rob Dickie