The theme of integrity arises once more in the second vignette, in which respected translator Grete Maigret (Ragnhild Hilt) must bridge communication gaps with a new editor Anne (Andrea Braein) after her previous editor passes away. Anne is a vibrant socialite with an infant child whose presence in the office is less than amusing to the aging introvert Grete. When Anne asks Grete to translate a book that she loved, Grete is put in a conflict. Even though Grete personally found the book trite and useless, like Lise she feels the pressure to not disappoint her young colleague and so makes a choice at the expense of her integrity. Furthermore Grete is overwhelmed with guilt for agreeing to translate the book at Anne’s birthday party, where Grete is considerably older than the other guests. Instead of calling the book “trashy,” she calls it “too young” in order to spare Anne’s feelings. Haugerud emphasizes the differences between the women in subtle ways, such as juxtaposing Anne’s colorful floral wardrobe with Grete’s more modest attire, or Anne’s insecurity about potentially having an unattractive surgery scar with Grete’s quiet acceptance of having had it most her life.
But a turning point comes when Grete finds out the author she translated (and inadvertently recommended) supports pornography as feminist empowerment. The argument of whether porn is feminist has been debated for a long time but the notion of openly discussing this idea let alone vehemently supporting pornography is a fairly new concept, primarily supported by the younger generations more familiar with third wave feminism. The fact that this author even said such a thing makes her visibly uncomfortable. Grete changed her name after she was sexually assaulted at 16, leading to a very complex relationship with her own sexuality and identity. The sacrifice of her integrity combined with her realization of her own age, the discomfort of sex as a discussion and the feeling that time is slipping away from her sends Grete into a depression that culminates with her decision to retire from translating.
The final story concerns pride in independence. Inger (Anne Marit Jacobsen) is offered a large sum of money as a gift from her sister-in-law (Kari Onstad Winge) who knows that she is struggling financially. Inger struggles to decide whether it is right to accept the money. Her pregnant daughter Ann-Kristin (Henriette Steenstrup) finds it odd that the money is being offered in the first place and fears that she will owe a debt of gratitude she will never be able to pay back. When the privileged young daughter of the sister-in-law listens to both sides of the argument and responds by comparing the scenario to a punk band she saw burn one million dollars in an art performance, the fault lines between these generations of Norwegian women are revealed. The young woman is studying to be a curator, a job she is barely able to articulate a description of. She doesn’t just represent the Norwegian upper-class, but moreover a generation that hasn’t never had to support themselves financially. While Ann-Kristin is primarily concerned with her pride, her mother Inger is less concerned with pride and more concerned with comfort in the remainder of her life as a retiree. But like the first two women in this story, Inger doesn’t want to disappoint her younger relatives.
The third vignette’s nearly optimistic end-note of Ann-Kristin (who drove the car at the beginning of the film) expressing the desire to give her mother “more” is comically interrupted by the car breaking down on the highway. The vehicle had acted as a symbol of support for these three very different women with common desires for pride, propelling their stories into existence. Yet the car’s final act of falling apart in the middle of a busy highway is representative of the fact that these errors in communication will continue on an endless cycle, and the speed at which time progresses is entirely out of our hands— but that the resilience of women and their support for each other can help make these changes easier.
Essay by Marisa Winckowski
Guest Curator, Filmatique