Helvette, well if it isn’t another underrated Norwegian movie? Next Door AKA Naboer is an intense, sexually charged and highly effective psychological thriller. A highly effective single location thriller to be more precise. The opening scene introduces our main character John perfectly. He’s still emotionally reeling from the breakup when his ex-girlfriend shows up to pick up her stuff. Several days after that event, an attractive neighbor asks him to help her move something in her apartment. From that moment on the tension and suspense continually escalate. 15 minutes in and you’re totally engrossed wondering what would you do in that situation.
I know that Next Door opens and continues like one of those weird subversive European movies. However, as time goes on, the plot becomes more and more familiar. This in no way takes away anything from the movie. I’m just trying to get you to check it out. The production values, camera work, and especially the acting are all top-notch. The pacing is just right and the running time is quite short, just 73 minutes. That’s like ten minutes more than one episode of your favorite television show. The story is full of mystery, satisfyingly offering answers to anything you might notice in the background.
And it feels really personal. Perhaps because of the claustrophobic setting or the focus on just a few characters. Whatever it is, Naboer is pure muscle, lean and mean. It shows that you don’t need a lot of money to make an excellent movie. A movie that’s still going to be relevant, engaging, and worth watching almost twenty years later. And that fucking music man, it’s just so good. It appears at just the right times leaving some scenes hauntingly raw. I also loved Pål Sletaune’s previous movie, the black comedy Amatorene. This one’s even better. I urge you not to watch the trailer as you need to dive straight into this nasty psychological thriller. You won’t regret it.
Ingrid and John are no longer dating. And while she moved on, hooking up with her friend Ake, John is having trouble processing their breakup. He seems distant at work and keeps remembering their time together. However, all of this will change after one elevator ride. His next-door neighbor Anna politely asks him to help her move a big cabinet. And then she not-so-politely asks him again. Confused but intrigued by her proposition, John decides to step into her apartment. What follows next is something he couldn’t have imagined in his wildest dreams. Or perhaps he could’ve?
The story in this movie evolves organically and in a familiar way. This makes you identify with John and his reasoning. And, as it continues to evolve, at each junction you keep thinking to yourself well this is not right. You keep expecting that something bad is going to happen. And then the movie starts pulling the rug under you. Sometimes in a very subtle way and sometimes with brute force. The story twists and explores different issues all tied together by our human nature. It explores sexuality, voyeurism, relationships, loneliness, and other stuff I will skip to avoid any spoilers.
It does all of this in a very intelligent and thought-provoking way while not forgetting about the main story. This isn’t some of those European art-house movies where a character stares at a wall for half an hour. And then eats an apple that represents the original sin or some shit like that. Sletaune drew inspiration from Hitchcock’s classics like Psycho, Rear Window, and Rope. However, the main theme of an ordinary individual going through a transformation smells more like Lynch’s Blue Velvet. Especially because it has such strong sexual undertones.
While we’re talking about other similar movies, there was a moment where I thought Next Door would go in the same direction as House of Darkness. However, that’s just a more straightforward affair despite its supernatural aspect. And while the movie we’re talking about today starts that way, it soon starts veering off in different directions. It uses enhanced reality to further amplify its story. The non-linear storytelling is quite easy to follow and I’m sure it’s not going to pose any problems to your understanding of the movie.
Wachowski’s Bound shares some elements but it’s all too casual when compared to Next Door. I would also say that the same extends to the more metaphorical meanings behind certain actions, situations, and characters. The truth is so satisfyingly laid out towards the end that it will bring you great pleasure to say Aha, I get it. I get why this played out that way and what represents what. However, I don’t want you to think this is going to be an arduous and necessary task. Naboer works just fine as a classic thriller anyone can get.
Directors: Pål Sletaune, Tony Spataro
Writer: Pål Sletaune
Cast: Kristoffer Joner, Cecilie A. Mosli, Julia Schacht, Anna Bache-Wiig, Michael Nyqvist
Fun Facts: The fourth movie in entire Norwegian cinematographic history to receive an 18+ rating.