Meeting the in-laws can be a challenging experience under the best circumstances, but throw in a language barrier, some casual racism and talk of premature births and you’ve really got yourself a truly uncomfortable situation. Gunhild Enger’s 2013 short Premature follows a young Norwegian man as he takes his pregnant Spanish girlfriend back to his homeland for the first time and we get to experience the car ride from the airport in all its excruciating glory.
Shot in one-take because she “wanted the audience to be in the situation and feel as if they were sitting in the car”, Premature isn’t a film concerned with fantasy and escapism, this is a short delivering a short, sharp slice of realism, covering a range of topics along the way.
With a distinctly European (or maybe if we’re being more precise – Scandinavian) feel to proceedings, on a macro-level Premature is a film about parent-child relationships and the generational gap when it comes to approaching life – and conversation. However, on a much larger scale, this is also a film about cultural differences and the way different nationalities view each other.
Something Enger’s expands on in this interview on rushprint.no – “I have a feeling that we [Scandinavians] somehow think that we do everything better here in the north, and the more southern you get, the further you also go from human rights, education and equality. I wanted to show the flip side of this, and the fact that we might not be as pedagogic and understanding that we like to think. My main idea was to portray a simple situation where people mean well, but do harm”.
On a personal level, this is a film that resonated with me strongly. With Greek in-laws myself and a language barrier (they speak very little English and I speak less Greek) separating us, I’ve experienced these generational and cultural differences firsthand. From my own slightly awkward ride back from the airport (the first time we met), a lecture on drinking too much and very different attitudes towards nudity, it’s never been difficult or uncomfortable enough to be described as a culture clash, but we’ve definitely had to work hard to find common ground and accept each others ways.
It’s hard not to watch Premature and be reminded of another Scandinavian short I love – Daniel Lundh’s People in Cars. Both share a simple premise, both are set entirely in cars and both show what you can achieve with a character-focused, dialogue-driven script.