–> original title: Morgan Pålsson – världsreporter
Morgan Pålsson is a bumbling reporter with Swedish state television (SVT). He is not only lazy and incompetent, but also arrogant, and he displays a complete disregard for other people’s needs or feelings. On top of that, he seems blissfully unaware of his incompetence and of his unpleasant character traits.
His long-suffering camera-man Robert Flycht is far more competent that Morgan, but in spite of all his experience, and despite the fact that he has been enduring working with Morgan for eight years, he still is only a free-lancer without a decent employment contract from the broadcaster.
In order to side-line Morgan, whom she despises, Eva, a manager at SVT, sends him to some nowhere-place to cover a pretty dull story. However, quite by accident, Morgan and Robert find themselves at the centre of events that are far more adventurous than is good for their health.
Apparently a spin-off for two characters created on Swedish TV sketch show HippHipp! (Morgan and Robert, both played by the same actors as in this film), Morgan Pålsson – World Reporter is pretty well-written and well-made, and I like the specific kind of humour used for the film.
This little Swedish comedy is a satire that pokes fun at professional incompetence and at lack of journalistic integrity; and it takes a critical look at both the old and the new way of doing things. Morgan and his elderly colleagues at SVT represent the old socialist Sweden, where people keep their well-paid jobs despite being lazy or incompetent. The ambitious SVT manager Eva represents the neo-conservative element, wanting to downsize everything and to cut back the “dead wood”, without any regard for the individual and without much care for the long-term quality of the product (in this case: televised content). And Robert represents the little guy caught in the middle of all this: the worker in the “new economy”, trapped between a newly created, uncaring free market on the one hand and an old institutionalised welfare economy on the other hand, where people who are far less competent than him are shielded from competition.
The acting is very good throughout. Anders Jansson (Morgan) and Johan Wester (Robert) work well together, and Camilla Frey represents a good contrast as the rival Norwegian journalist.
In fact, the supporting roles are all well-cast, a very important thing in comedy. Thomas Ungewitter, Rolf Skoglund, and Fredrik Dolk are very good as the old guard at SVT, and Suzanne Reuter is excellent as the ambitious manager pushing for change.
Other important supporting roles are played by Karim Rasheed and Elisabeth Lahr.
While I love the premise and the plot, and am very happy with the acting, there are some problems with the writing. The writing is generally good as well, with lots of little ideas that enrich the story, such as the purported Swedish-Norwegian rivalry and the fact that no-one can understand a word of what the Norwegian camera-woman is saying. But I also feel that a number of things about Morgan himself do not work. It seems the filmmakers did not know when to rein in the character’s eccentricities. At times, Morgan displays a little bit too much nastiness and stupidity, threatening to throw the film’s tone off balance. There are many little scenes in which Morgan displays extremely childish behaviour, making him look like a mental health patient. And while stupidity, incompetence, selfishness, and insensitivity are in congruence with Morgan’s character, these scenes of extreme narcism and recklessness are way off the mark and make the character feel unbelievable. So there is clearly a writing problem here, with the writers (which include the two lead actors) all too happy to add more and more outrageous scenes without regard for the tone of the film or the believability of the character. Since this is a film spun off from a sketch show, this might also be a result of trying to expand thin pre-existing material – in other words: throwing a lot of ideas at the wall and waiting to see what sticks.
The only other noticeably uneven element is the film’s ending. Usually, an ending provides a conclusion to the plot and closure for the characters. I feel that the ending of Morgan Pålsson – World Reporter provides a conclusion, but there is no real closure for many of the characters.
As you can see, this is not a perfect film – less of a gem, more of a rough diamond of a film in need of some polishing. But as I said, it has a great premise and story, and (mostly) great humour, as well as some really good acting; and it is a very enjoyable satire, in spite of its problems. So I believe the current imdb-rating [5.5] significantly undervalues the film.
I usually don’t like it when British or American studios needlessly remake foreign films, but in light of this film’s potential on the one hand and its shortcomings on the other, and in light of the universal appeal of the topic, I believe that Morgan Pålsson – World Reporter would be a prime candidate for a good remake. And by good I mean a remake that keeps the subtle digs, the dry humour, etc., and not a remake that makes everything loud and flashy.
a few words about the DVD:
I had been meaning to watch this film for a long time, but it was rather difficult to find it on DVD. With some Swedish releases, I was unsure if there were any subtitles. I finally found a Finnish release, which had the Swedish original with English subtitles (DVD commentaries and extras have no subtitles at all).
Unfortunately, there are some glitches on the DVD. Around the middle of the film, the DVD freezes and jumps. The problem lasts for about 5 minutes. I could still understand what was going on by simply watching the passage over and over again, as the DVD always freezes at different times and I could thus see all the subtitles of this passage. I am not sure if this is a general problem with this release, or just a problem of my particular copy.