— by Jeff Schultz
[Special dispatch from the Tromsø International Film Festival]
TONGUE CUTTERS (which is the English translation) may be one of the greatest romantic comedies ever filmed, even though the boy is only 10 and the girl 9 and there isn’t as much as even a chaste kiss in it. Director Solveig Melkeraaen gets so much out of her two young leads because she invests them with the respect one accords to adults, coaxing out a developing maturity that is the opposite of precociousness. In fact, this a documentary, and these “children” (which they are, although it seems strange to call them that ) really have worked cutting out the tongues of cod in northern Norway, as do many others in a longstanding fish industry tradition there. And because it’s real, and because the world it shows us is so utterly postive and (forgive the cliche) “life affirming”, there’s no need to introduce fake conflict. From start to finish TONGUE CUTTERS is captivating to the point where I cried happy tears. For real.
As it happens, there’s been international coverage of a flap over a class of 5-year-old Norwegian schoolchildren who were taken on a field trip to a reindeer slaughterhouse. (They were not shown actual kills.) In TONGUE CUTTERS, kids that young, or just a little older, are not only put to work amid oceans of bloody and dismembered fish, it’s the kids who are doing the dismembering. With long sharp knives. And not only are they fine with it, they’re gloriously well-adjusted. Every helicopter parent in America should watch this movie and learn from it: the kids are all right.