2006Director: Christoffer Boe
Cast: Ulrich Thomsen, Helena Christensen, Henning Moritzen
llegro wants to be many things, but, in effect, there is little about it that evokes more than just the sum of its parts. Taking off as a modestly animated art narration piece, Christopher Boe’s film soon shifts into a romantic thriller, contemporary sci-fi mystery, metaphysical sleepwalking elegy, and back again, all within the span of its 88-minute runtime. Which would be a delight, if it managed to sustain these ambitions with a solid screenplay, engaging dialogue, or character chemistry. Sadly, Allegro falls short on these fronts.
There’s a sequence late in the movie in which Ulrich Thomsen’s character, an accomplished pianist by the name of Zetterstorm, is made to perform a short set on a children’s piano in the middle of a square in Copenhagen in exchange for his stolen talent. After chasing a child off the piano, he proceeds to jerkily stage an impromptu set before an increasing number of bemused passers-by. It’s a simple scene, yet there is something honest about it. The film bursts with such winsome interludes, denoting a strong originality of vision, yet it’s the piecing together of these elements that leads to the film’s myriad shortcomings. What might have been a fast-moving cyber thriller, touching on identity and memory loss, is weighed down by its own gravitas. The problems here don’t necessarily diminish the film’s accomplishments as sci-existential romance, but they do lessen its weight and lend the proceedings a before-seen dreariness.
Allegro centers on Zetterstorm’s battle to regain his identity, misplaced in the “zone,” a timeless, transitional place where past and present collide and melt into an unceasing state of being. Of course, there’s a woman in the mix (played by model Helena Christensen in her acting debut), and a world of guilt and regret between her and the protagonist. Unfortunately, their attraction seems founded solely on the tautological notion that we should buy it just by witnessing their current demise. Zetterstorm’s search for the foundation of his identity is a loose, meandering affair. Favoring sinuous cinematic artistry over background exposition, the movie slows down where it should speed up–in frantically chasing the present, it forgets about the past. In the Charlie Kaufman-penned Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Jim Carrey’s pursuit of his own past was a heartfelt affair. Much of that is lost in Allegro.
Boe’s first feature, Reconstruction, a tight, effective sci-fi drama, was met with critical acclaim in both his native Denmark and internationally. Tottering between pretension and daring, Allegro is trapped inside its own claws. Riddled with precision-crafted throwaways, Boe nonetheless likes to call it “a movie about love, Copenhagen, and science fiction” whilst namedropping Minnelli’s Gigi and Tarkovsky’s Stalker as major influcences. But where his story advances as a noir romance, ripe with Kaufmanesque platonic metaphysics, the film ultimately wraps around itself with layers of unsatisfying exposition.
Despite its confused (and confusing) endeavours, Allegro is far from a failure. As dark and murky as it is, the film’s world is one of beautiful visual artistry, poignant music, and tender emotional truths. Visually, the stylisation is Boe alone. Like Bouli Lanners or Carlos Reygadas, Boe is slowly but steadily making a name for himself, and if his first two features are anything to go by, we might just hear more from him.
Allegro is currently playing in the UK.
By: Sandro Matosevic
Published on: 2006-09-27