Som Du Ser Meg, which translates as “As You See Me,” known by the title I Belong at VIFF 2013, is the feature fiction debut by Norwegian documentary filmmaker Dag Johan Haugerud.
I Belong is a metanarrative beginning with an author reading aloud from her collection of short stories as she records her audiobook. Her function as the narrator introduces the lives of three women: a nurse, a translator, and an elderly woman who is offered the gift of a large sum of money, all of whom face challenges when articulating their thoughts within social norms and expectations.
I Belong is crafted with generosity; it guides the viewer to read between the lines using techniques that inspire self-reflection and questioning. With its soundtrack comprising wavering and intense violin music that stops abruptly—just as the viewer begins to get carried away by his/her own understanding—and some artful close-up shots which feel blurry due to lack of focus or over exposure, I Belong is a reminder of the constant, active process of interpretation, and the intangible gaps that twist communication.
Despite the engagement with many stories, I Belong never feels like a series of vignettes. Each story weaves itself into the other seamlessly. From the nurse who switches between Norwegian and English when nervously mentoring an intern, to the character of the translator who sacrifices her principles when translating a book which she disapproves, and the poor elderly woman who has trouble accepting a monetary gift from a relative, the stories consistently add depth by linking and layering aspects from each.
Fluid and comic dialogue often makes it easy to forget the characters’ conflicts, but the second story featuring the translator is structured in a self-referential way, serving as a pivot for meaning which grounds the overall film in the troublesome acts of interpretation and communication. The film’s multi-layered quality emphasizes its appeal, allowing viewers to watch it on many levels. As such, it draws comparisons to the films of Todd Solondz, particularly Storytelling and Dark Horse, as well as fiction by David Foster Wallace, like “Here and There” in Girl With Curious Hair.
Reference to a poem (and a scene in which the characters of the nurse and her husband read the poem in its entirety in bed) by Philip Larkin is not the only aspect that will make this film appeal to readers, writers, poets and bookworms of all sorts. The unity of many elements and the exquisitely crafted metafictional conclusion, too, makes I Belong an impressive film with an expansive scope that will toy with you on every viewing.
Catch the last screening of I Belong during VIFF 2013 on Monday, October 7, 2:00 p.m. at The Rio.