‘Nothing to laugh’ Helmer on bringing up a serious subject with humor

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As its title suggests, “Nothing to Laugh About” tackles a serious subject.

The Norwegian film, directed by Petter Næss, centers on a successful 40-year-old comedian whose entire life changes in just one day: Not only is his show canceled, but he splits up with his girlfriend and also has to deal with it. a devastating diagnosis from her doctor – bone cancer.

“Nothing to Laugh About” made its international premiere last week at the Zurich Film Festival, having hit theaters in Norway in second place behind “Dune”.

Rather than focusing on the cancerous aspect of the film, the festival’s program notes describe the film as “the charming, heartwarming and humorous story of a man who sets out to rediscover his laughter.”

And that’s exactly the kind of film that Næss – best known for making Norway’s 2002 Oscar entry “Elling” – set out to make.

“When we were about to take it out, we tried to avoid using the word cancer – because people instantly think they don’t want to see it,” he said, the day after the premiere in. Zurich. “This is not a cancer comedy. It’s a film about the desire to live.

By comparison, he looks for films where ostensibly difficult topics have provided an opportunity to explore the way we live our lives.

Roberto Benigni’s Oscar winner, “La vie est belle”, he says, is “not so much a film about the Holocaust as it is a film about creating illusions.” The French hit “The Intouchables” is “not a comedy about a person in a wheelchair, it is a wonderful film about the relationship of a strange couple”.

The same could be said of Næss’s “Elling”, a bizarre couple comedy about two friends dating from a psychiatric treatment center in an apartment in central Oslo.

The cast of “Nothing To Laugh” is directed by Odd-Magnus Williamson, who also wrote the screenplay. Næss says that when he first read Williamson’s script on a train trip to Norway, he liked the way it balanced humor and seriousness. “I’ve always been afraid of dying and dying my whole life – and I’ve always used humor to air it out.”

Initially, he admits, he was skeptical though. “I thought this was another movie about spoiled kids in Oslo with too much stuff who are never satisfied. But suddenly I realized I was wrong and did this emotional roller coaster – I laughed and I cried. I wanted train passengers to one day be able to go to the movies and understand why. “

Næss, who has worked extensively in theater and television as well as in film, had previously put on a show about patients with terminal cancer. “All of the research we did at the time was that one of the hardest things for people with cancer is to deal with other people – because they stop being funny and are very serious. with them, but they said they wanted to be treated like ordinary people and alive.

Næss adds: “The serious aspects of the film don’t get any less serious just because they are treated with humor.”

The film crew also consulted doctors and cancer organizations in Norway. “They would read the script before we started filming and say, ‘This is the kind of movie we need right now.'”

We can see why. According to Cancer Research UK, one in two people in the UK born after 1960 will be diagnosed with some form of cancer in their lifetime. Since cancer affects so many people, “Nothing For Laughs” might finally find an audience – despite the topic.


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