TIFF15 REVIEW: Fuglehjerter [Bird Hearts] [2015]

Score: 7/10 | ★ ★ ★

Rating: NR | Runtime: 25 minutes | Release Date: 2015 (Norway)
Studio: Norwegian Film Institute
Director(s): Halfdan Olav Ullmann Tøndel
Writer(s): Halfdan Olav Ullmann Tøndel

“I thought I’d go all in”

Ah the quarter-life crisis. Turning twenty-six and finding you’re still at university and pretty much ignored by everyone in your life when compared to a younger brother away at a prestigious school and already published to boot. What should be Benjamin’s (André Sørum) day becomes just another family get-together, one with distractions, differing tastes, and alternative priorities leaving him wanting. Everyone seeks to know what Tobias (Steinar Klouman Hallert) has been up to, each busy fawning over little Lucy baking a cake to see Benjamin’s hurt and discomfort. We’re all selfish in this way, trying to juggle so much in so little time that our want for perfection leads to sanitized expressions and canned responses. Love turns into routine and before we know it another twenty-five years passes with nothing to show and even less to feel proud.

On top of this existential breakdown comes one more example of insufficiency. And the best part of its revelation is that Benjamin asked for it—demanded it even. Because at the center of twenty-five year old Halfdan Ullmann Tøndel‘s Fuglehjerter [Bird Hearts] is a candid evening under the stars with his girlfriend Maya (Stine Sørensen), brother Tobias, friend Veronica (Eline Grødal), and him. Sexual exploits are shared and when it comes time for Maya to spill the goods Benjamin happily eggs her on. Unbeknownst to everyone, however, is that a four-month stay in South America before they met contained a wild, public escapade of pleasure she still remembers in vivid detail. So just as the birthday boy is at an all-time low watching his junior sibling surpass him in life, he misguidedly believes he cannot satisfy the woman he loves.

This explicit memory has reverberations everyone who heard it, but Benjamin simply cannot shake the paranoia of never being good enough—for Maya, his family, or himself. Tøndel puts his character’s insecurities on full display until he becomes his own worst enemy, depression and a lack of self-worth working to push those he wants closer farther and farther away. Highly relatable and extremely authentic, we watch him pathologically dismantle his life by being too stubborn to accept the past as the past or acknowledge the how present will never be beholden to it. The awkwardness is palpable especially with Tobias suffering through the uncertainty of whether to console or ignore. When it rains it pours and Benjamin cannot tread water faster enough. We try so hard to be strong that we inevitably forget vulnerability is far from weakness.

It’s what makes us human.

Courtesy of TIFF

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