January 30, 2013

In Norwegian director Kristoffer Borgli‘s new short, Real Life Exp., two teen girls get trapped in a ’60s-era swimming pool auditorium. They have willowy legs, chat about boys, and they find Norwegian producer Lindstrøm‘s new single on CD. They subsequently rock out to the synth-heavy Nu-disco before going back to chatting about boys and whatever else to pass the time. And as it passes, we’re left to soak up the muted colors, natural light, elegantly composed handheld shots, and atmospheric Scandinavian minimalism.

This slice of teen life hovers somewhere between narrative short and music video (unsurprisingly, Borgli earned his stripes as a music video director.) The film or video or whatever you want to call it was a collaboration with Lindstrøm’s label Smalltown Supersound, and premiered on Nowness the day before Lindstrøm’s new single “Vôs-sâkô-kv” came out. Even though most of the ten-minute film is devoted to plot and dialogue rather than to featuring the song, it still fits most definitions of a music video–“a short film made to advertise a popular song” according to the Cambridge dictionary or “a short film integrating a song and imagery, produced for promotional or artistic purposes” according to Wikipedia.

It’s not the first time Borgli has waded into the realm of narrative film. Last year, his first foray, Whateverest, racked up several festival awards. But that too was not entirely divorced from the world of music videos. It tells the story behind the dance track “Inspector Norse” for which Borgli also directed the music video. Assembled from footage from the same shoots and featuring many of the same sequences, the film and the video are two-sides of the same coin, though the film has dialogue, and the video is montage. And what’s more, the film plays at film festivals, the video on your laptop–the words today, when almost everything is edited digitally anyways, refer less and less to a medium and more to how something is used and consumed.

In the plot of Borgli’s newest hybrid beast Real Life Exp., the girls come across other CDs lying around the pool—Kanye West, Lady GaGa—but they’d rather listen to Lindstrøm. The prettier of the two, the one who’s had older boyfriends, says she’s heard of the Oslo DJ. But, she doesn’t describe his cosmic house music. Instead, she says, “He had a nice album cover two years ago with a photo of him laughing.” It’s a self-conscious moment–Borgli is a music video director who is clearly aware that today’s recording artist is as much about an image as a sound.

The girls then put the CD in the boombox and press play. And with that, the singular greatest trope (well, it’s my favorite anyways) of the MTV-era, the song is seamlessly integrated into the film’s world. We get a little over a minute of the track before we return back to the film, where the plot and dialogue is so well-written, paced, and performed that it’s easy to forget this is actually a music video.

Borgli is clearly a talent. According to Nowness, he has his eye on directing a feature in the near future. From this short, which is more style than substance, it’s hard to say whether Borgli will be able to master long form. Still, I’ll be looking out for whatever he does next.

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