Mennesker i Solen (People in the Sun) is a Norwegian dark comedy that has the world quite quickly coming to an end. Indeed, it’s the last day. In this comedy with a message though, no one has really noticed because we are watching four somewhat awful people unravel in a film that feels more like a stage play with some beautiful effects. It is a bit of a niche film but it’s certainly an interesting entry into the disaster movie pantheon.
The disasters faced
Blood rain, lightning, locusts, earthquakes, rotten fish, a lot of back hair, meteors and the biggest disaster of all – having to suffer each other.
Norwegian middle-aged couple Siv and Svein have decided to go on holiday to a beautiful Swedish coastal camping site. They like it there, it’s quiet and their mute son Simon can happily play about in the sand and water whilst they get a suntan. They aren’t the happiest couple. In fact as the movie unfolds, they have some deep-seated hatred about elements of themselves and each other. They are trying to relax though even if the sex pest Svein is desperate to turn it into a dirty vacation. His advances are interrupted by fellow holidaying couple Ingrid and Stig. This younger couple might have perfect looks but their entire marriage is a nervous wreck. Stig dominates Ingrid who has an inferiority complex but Stig is so anally retentive that he makes himself ill. He needs Ingrid to take charge but is quick to put her back in his place again but Ingrid has an element of Stockholm syndrome delight for it. Its a toxic marriage to say the least. The four agree to go for dinner since no one else is about and the movie takes place across the meal and drinks that follow into the night.
Each character has issues and they get discussed and toyed with as you watch each character unravel. Soon Danish Fru arrives as the tormentor to twist the knife in each of their personality traits. She’s got cancer and she doesn’t have time for fools and calls it like it is and no one can really take what she has to say. They all begrudge that she’s there at all because instead of descending into a fight, now there’s a thin air of politeness because they must be nice to the lady with cancer. What the holidaymakers aren’t noticing is everything else that’s going on around them.
Taking cues from the bible, the apocalypse is going on around them. The sun doesn’t set. Then we get blood raining from the sky to ruin their food. The water turns to poison and fish are dead everywhere. Comets fall from the sky. It isn’t until an earthquake and a plague of locusts arrive that Siv, Svein, Ingrid and Stig start to wonder if something more dramatic is afoot. Even still, if you think the end of the world is nigh and you’ve had a really crap day, do you just pull out the whiskey and say “ah fuck it”? It’s that kind of humour that Mennesker i Solen strives for.
The movie reaches its climactic final act when Simon and Fru go missing and our four awful characters suddenly realise they’ve been missing for ages. Has she kidnapped him in the chaos? Did Simon want to escape his rowdy life anyway? Oh… and why are there now loads of meteorites and a giant black cloud coming our way?! What exactly is going on with the People in the Sun?
Why is it worth watching?
This is a beautifully produced play for the big screen. The vast majority of the film takes place either at the shoreline or at a picnic table between caravans. It relies on good acting, excellent characterisation and a liking for some dark humour. You’ll be exploring the world of being socially awkward and trying to be polite when one couple points out the flaws in the other couple when they are just as bad. It’s not a disaster movie but it’s got the same tone as the superb Carnage. In that film, it’s four parents having a 90-minute argument over two fighting school kids that just escalates into comedic farce whilst giving social commentary. Here, we have a 78-minute picnic where couples bicker over their life choices and feeling like they settled in life and with each other.
The comedy may not suit everyone’s taste. It uses serious subjects to make the social clumsiness more awkward and stilted, but I enjoyed it. Where I always find these styles of plays turned movies a little tricky is in the believability of it all. Siv, Svein, Ingrid and Stig all clearly hate each other but the evening just keeps going, getting worse and worse. You’d just politely call it a night in real life, not declare your age of virginity loss as a drinking game to lighten the mood! If you take that with a pinch of salt and enjoy the movie long gag that the world is ending all around them and they are too self-absorbed to notice, this will be a brief but fun ride.
Whilst this is definitely set up like a play, we have real effects here. The film has a bright warm hue and the sky and beach vista is a character itself as the mood of the apocalypse draws nearer. The blood rain is well done, as are the dead fish. CGI for the earthquake and meteorites is passable and made better with a mixture of practical effects of explosions and collapsed debris. The locust swarm is a little blurry for my personal taste but some bug toys to pick off and throw about help sell it a bit more.
Mennesker i Solen is all about the characters. Siv is just fed up with daily life and is knackered. Svein is bored of a sexless marriage and wants to spice things up again. Neither of them knows how best to parent Simon, who spends most of the movie being told off, building sandcastles or wanting to lash out at his parents to get some attention. Ingrid and Stig are a curious couple because they love and hate each other and that clingy nature for both of them makes it so cleverly judged. I’m also conscious that Ane Dahl Torp has now been in almost every Norweigan disaster movie I’ve seen so far and she is an excellent actress. Fru is the most interesting one because she is removed from the group and has a mysterious quality to her. You do wonder if she’s really human after all with the way she behaves.
I’m sure it was raining blood…
Well that wasn’t in the brochure!Siv says Always remember to get your money back in an apocalypse!
Three memorable moments
- Raining blood. It gives some great imagery!
- The visual gags of meteorites passing by without anyone noticing.
- After the earthquake, as Ingrid tries to hug Siv for comfort and instead of being bothered about the earthquake, Siv is angrier at being hugged.
The obligatory weird moment
This movie has overt religious imagery and connotations throughout and it’s quite on the nose at times. I had guessed the ending early on and was largely correct but then I wondered are we playing with the bible or Scientology… or both? I’m not religious so I could well just be confused myself. Outside of that, I don’t think I’d be inviting Fru for any wine or whiskey after her dramatic mid-movie monologue break down! I’d keep the drink well away from her.
The drinking game
Indirect insults between couples. This is a bitchy movie.
A socially awkward and self-absorbed play about six characters not realising the end of the world is occurring before their eyes. You can enjoy the awkward comedy and you can enjoy the serious message lurking not too subtly underneath. It is a unique entry in the disaster movie genre but only apply if you enjoy character-driven conversational movies. I think everyone else will be a little lost with what it is attempting to do.
Rating: 2.5 / 5 – OK
If you enjoyed Mennesker i Solen, then you may like:
- It’s A Disaster – comedy about 4 couples locked in when a dirty bomb goes off.
- Last Night – a drama with some comedy elements showing how various people spend their last day on Earth.
- The Final Storm – a similar tale of a biblical prophet type arriving to tell people of impending doom with no real basis or reason for it.
I Love Disaster Movies is part of the Higher Plain Network. If you like what I do, and would like to help me make better and more content then please consider supporting me via Patreon for as little as $1 or £1. Thank you.