A Human Position Review

Anders Emblem’s A Human Position has a slow narrative – even for festival film standards. The establishing shots seem to never end. The still frames stay put for so long that I wondered if anyone inhabited the sleepy Norwegian town of Ålesund. Let’s just assume they got this luxury owning to the pandemic – which curiously isn’t addressed in the film. Having said that, it is the languid pace that appealed the most to me in this quiet film – one that can be classified into an array of genres.

Emblem’s film does not have too many things to say. And whatever it wants, it might as say it through light exchange of glances, a light touch or a cat with notable histrionic abilities. He manages to convey a range of emotions through glances and gentle touches. There’s even a cat with notable histrionic abilities.

The protagonist in A Human Position is Asta (Amalie Ibsen Jensen), a young journalist who returns to work after an undisclosed trauma. She shares an aesthetic apartment with her carpenter girlfriend Live (Maria Agwumaro). Much like the film and the town it is set in, the couple leads a quiet life devoid of tension. The block, however, is in Asta’s mind. Having resumed work recently, she stumbles upon a story that intrigues her to bits. A curious Asta attempts to learn more about Aslan, an asylum seeker who was extradited from Norway. Emblem, in his own supple, sensitive fashion, designs a character arc for the woman which is cathartic and empathetic.

A Human Position is layered with moments of tenderness between the lovers. It isn’t a characteristic love story with mushy moments, yet it’s beautiful enough to see them lay on the floor holding hands. The frames are composed using softer tones, and they linger on for long so that we tend to seep into the mood of the leisurely Norwegian town. Emblem fascinates us by leaving behind sizeable food for thought. We are never told about the tragedy that Asta seems to have gone through. Aslan’s whereabouts, too, are undisclosed. It isn’t that the film ended on a cliffhanger, but as it concluded, I didn’t really bother about details. A Human Position is not one of those films. Through the newspaper article that wished to confront the social conscience of Norwegians, Asta’s quest inches her many steps closer to healing. Not to forget the immensely rewarding finale that Emblem stages to close this minimalist, slow-burn drama.

A Human Position was screened at International Film Festival Rotterdam.