The Monitor [originally titled Babycall] is a morose sturdy of morose behavior with an actress giving a morose performance. It's all pretty morose.
The Monitor is the story of Anna (Noomi Rapace) who has come to Oslo with her son Anders (Vetle Qvenild Werring), fleeing her husband who abused her son.
They have been placed by Social Services in an apartment building on the outskirts of the city. Social Services is still deciding her fitness.
Anna lives constantly on the verge of panic. Because of the past, she is paranoid and excessively protective of her son. She is furtive and elusive.
At a big store, Anna buys a baby monitor, which will allow her to keep track of her eight-year old son when he is in another room.
In her apartment, on the monitor she hears a child in another apartment - the child seems to be threatened and desperate. This increases her own anxiety.
The only person who is nonthreatening is the salesman who sold her the monitor - gentle Helge (Kristoffer Joner), who seeks to establish a relationship with her. But Anna is fundamentally alienated.
Norwegian director/writer Pal Sletaune creates a drab look for his film. Most of the colors are bland. The Monitor is full of doors - many glass -, empty hallways, voids and expanses.
The high rise apartment building is an imposing block with tiers of straight lines of small windows - a structure of dull similarity. When Anna is in the store, a wall of television screens all have the same image. Her surroundings are bleak.
Sletaune creates a lot of dualities: two boys, two mothers, two hospital patients, two social workers, two salesmen, two doors, two men who visit the apartment, two swing seats - one occupied, the other empty - and two monitor responses.
Early on, the male social worker (Stig R. Amdam) relates a basic theme of the movie when he asks Anna, "Can you tell the difference between real and unreal?" Not exactly subtle.
Noomi Rapace, who brilliantly brought Lisbeth Salander to life in the Swedish Millenium Trilogy, is restricted by the character of Anna. Much of the time, her face is as expressive as a muffin. Her fretful glance and stolid stare become routine.
Rapace's usual feral quality is suppressed. She does what she can with the muddled character.
Kristoffer Joner gives The Monitor a human presence.
Sletaune appears to have been influenced by Roman Polanski, but The Monitor is more oppressive than haunting. There is little or no sense of dread. The climax is predictable.
The Monitor is one of those films that demand suspense of disbelief. It all depends on how you monitor The Monitor.
Is it droning static or intriguing entertainment?
What's the buzz?
For a change of pace, you might want to listen to interviews that I conducted in the 70s and 80s, some of which were published in my book Voices from the Set: The Film Heritage Interviews (2000).
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