In Berlevåg, a small and chilly fishing village situated along the shores of Finnmarka, a disparate group of 30 men from three different generations are united through their passion for singing. Together, they make up the soon-to-be-famous (or it would be nice to think so) Berlevåg Male Choir--a dedicated and impeccably dressed outfit who regularly meet up to belt out a variety of songs in their home village. The men vary wildly not only in age but in background, beliefs, and political and religious persuasions. Jensen focuses in particular on two elderly brothers; a straight-talking former amphetamine addict; and an agnostic organist. Keeping them all in tune is their long-haired, wheelchair-bound conductor. While the director occasionally dips into their individual private lives, taking his camera into their homes, he concentrates primarily on the extraordinary camaraderie that exists between the members as they perform together in rehearsal, in concert and on tour.
Thanks to his obvious admiration for the self-effacing choir's dedication, not to mention their considerable talent, Jensen has created a film that is--like the songs themselves--amusing, moving, patriotic and powerful. Certain scenes have a surreal air, such as when the tuxedoed group sings their hearts out towards the Barent Sea, frost forming on their pinched faces.
Like all good documentaries, this is an enlightening insight into a previously unexplored world, to which the viewer feels privileged to have been introduced. One only hopes that word of the choir will spread beyond Scandinavia and that we may see them perform in the flesh in sunnier vistas. Cool? Yes. Crazy? Occasionally. A cult classic? Quite possibly. Starring the Berlevåg Male Choir. Directed by Knut Erik Jensen. Produced by Tom Remlov. A First Run release. Documentary. Norwegian-language; subtitled. Unrated. Running time: 105 min.