VIFF 2023: There’s No Place Like Home (Den, der lever stille)

Directed by: Puk Graster
Distributed by: TBD

Written by Michael Clawson

In the tonally confused Danish film “There’s No Place Like Home,” dysfunctional family drama is filtered through surrealistic horror, and made into a brightly colored nightmare. In her early twenties, Leonora (Frederikke Dahl Hansen) moves into a place of her own, starts a literary career, and distances herself from her parents after a traumatic childhood. When she learns that her mother is terminally ill, Leonora visits the hospice facility where her mother is bedridden, and is disoriented as memories from her younger years blend with her present reality. With a brash visual palette of vivid primary colors, mixed image formats, and jolting sound design, the excess of style that director Puk Graster brings to this scenario stifles the emotions at hand. 

The film openly nods to David Lynch in its opening minutes, when Leonora puts “Twin Peaks” on her television and gently sways in harmony with Audrey Horne. But “There’s No Place Like Home” never achieves the eerie unreality of its influences – its surrealistic flair is too disjointed for that. As Leonora navigates the halls of the hospice center where much of the film is set, Graster periodically switches from digital cinematography to the grainy videotape of a security camera. The effect is voyeuristic, but there’s no rhythm to the format changes, just as there are no timing instincts on display when Graster abruptly shifts between tones. Hansen has a compelling screen presence, but the pathos that might have otherwise been found in Leonora’s troubled relationships can’t get through the surface distractions.

“There’s No Place Like Home” Trailer

Michael Clawson is a member of the Seattle Film Critic Society you can follow his passion for film on Letterboxd.

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