Kitchen Stories

This is a Norwegian film from 2003  that draws positive comparison with the genius that is the Finn, Aki Kaurismaki. It is slow, surreal, and full of quirky human observations.

It is about the Home Research Institute of Sweden sending men with caravans to observe the kitchen behaviour of Norwegian men who live alone. They have completed work on the behaviour of housewives, discovering they walk the equivalence of to Africa and back; their aim is, jokingly, to reduce this to Italy. So researchers sit on high chairs in kitchens, mapping the movements of their subjects, but Isak was told he would get a horse, as his own is dying, but he only gets a wooden toy, so he refuses to let them into his house, then he continues to be as obstructive as possible, hanging his washing in the kitchen to hide behind, then doing all his cooking in his bedroom as well as turning the tables and recording the behaviour of his observer.

But eventually the old farmer warms to his observer, and the notion of the project becomes increasingly challenged, with one of the participants demanding to know, how can you learn anything if you don’t speak to each other? Which is, of course a perfectly valid point and undermines the whole notion of what many social experiments were based on. But it also has some very deep questions to be asked about the nature of science and its ability to measure what we do, and what is to be gained anyway. Did anyone ask them to do this study? Does anyone complain about how far they walk in the kitchen? of course not.

This is a lovely, funny, poignant little film, and, as The Times claimed when it was released back in 2003: ‘Kitchen Stories is why great festivals matter.’

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