Sometimes things just line up. Like when Mercury goes into retrograde on Friday the 13th. Or this year, when Valentine’s Day weekend just so happens to coincide with AndersFest 2022, the most romantic movie event of the season.
If you have no idea what AndersFest 2022 is, do not fret: It is an imaginary event I just made up honoring the life and work of Norwegian art-house hunk Anders Danielsen Lie. Compared with complicated holidays like Halloween or Purim, AndersFest is simple. All you have to do is watch a double feature of the two films Lie is currently starring in, Bergman Island and The Worst Person in the World, perhaps while eating thematically appropriate snacks and ideally while thinking deeply about the nature of love and whether Lie is hotter in one movie or the other.
First, some background: Lie is a 43-year-old multi-hyphenate who has the kind of life a romance-novel editor would reject for being unrealistic. He spends half of his time appearing in acclaimed European art films and the other half working as a general practitioner in Norway. (His mother was an actor and his father was a doctor — call Freud.) If you’re into Norwegian movies, you possibly saw him as a mentally ill writer in 2006’s Reprise or as a recovering drug addict in 2011’s Oslo, August 31st. (Those films and Worst Person were all directed by Joachim Trier and are collectively known as the filmmaker’s “Oslo trilogy.”) Personally, I knew him as murderer Anders Breivik in Paul Greengrass’s 22 July, which is possibly the least sexy role an actor could ever play.
Things got a lot steamier last summer when Bergman Island and The Worst Person in the World premiered at Cannes and cemented Lie as the cinephile sex symbol of the moment. In the former, he plays Joseph, the on-again, off-again lover to Mia Wasikowska’s Amy in a film within the film; in the latter, he’s Aksel, a Gen-X cartoonist who romances aimless protagonist Julie (Renate Reinsve). Even leaving aside Lie’s presence, the two films are in conversation with each other, a diptych about female desire and ambition. One reason why they have made Lie so crush-worthy is that, in both, his character is seen through the eyes of a woman who loves him. They’re not the same guy, but there’s enough overlap to create an Anders Danielsen Lie star image — he’s smart, kind of an asshole, but nevertheless alluring. I made a meme about it!
While both Bergman Island and Worst Person in the World are in some respects all about love, you do not have to be partnered up to take part in AndersFest 2022. If you are in a relationship, I suspect you’ll get a lot out of celebrating with your partner, but this holiday works equally well as a get-together for a group of friends or even as a meaningful pastime for the solitary viewer. Here are all the things you will need:
— A Hulu subscription or, failing that, an Amazon account.
— A residence located reasonably near one of the 50 theaters nationwide playing The Worst Person in the World.
— Enough interest in contemporary European cinema that you will be able to resist the temptation of your phone for four hours.
AndersFest is an all-day affair. Below is a suggested schedule, though you should feel free to mix things up as you see fit. The only mandatory event is watching both films. Otherwise it wouldn’t be a “fest”; it would just be “watching a movie,” and that’s far less fun.
We’re going to start with Bergman Island, directed by French filmmaker Mia Hansen-Løve, because that’s the one that’s streaming and it makes sense to start at home. The film is currently available on Hulu, but if you don’t have an account, you can also rent it on Amazon for the low price of 99 cents. That’s only nine krona!
At the risk of sounding like Alison Roman, there is no better accompaniment for a fancy movie than fancy snacks. Bergman Island takes place on the Swedish island of Fårö, which, as you may be able to tell from the title, served as both a home and a filming location for the legendary director Ingmar Bergman. Don’t worry — you don’t have to be a Bergman expert to enjoy the movie, but if you are, that’s cool, too. If you’re the baking type, pair the film with Swedish cardamom buns, which Eater pegs as the next “It” pastry. You can also try Lussekatter, S-shaped saffron buns traditionally eaten at Christmastime. (That every Swede apparently has a pantry full of expensive spices is one of the lesser-known benefits of social democracy.) Neither of these appear in the film; if you want to really go nuts, make some lamb burgers, which do.
Then all you have to do is watch the movie! Here are some potential discussion questions:
— One underlying question of Bergman Island is whether both people in a relationship can be fulfilled professionally and personally, or if one partner will always have to sacrifice, and why is that usually the woman? Discuss how gender plays into your relationships.
— Would you rather be settled and boring like Chris and Tony (Vicky Krieps and Tim Roth) or tumultuous and sexy like Amy and Joseph?
— Do you see a “female gaze” in the way Hansen-Løve’s camera shoots Lie?
— Should both women stay with their current love interests, or should they make a play for Hampus (Hampus Nordenson)? He definitely seemed into it.
— How do you think Chris’s movie ended?
— Would you enjoy a couple’s trip to the Swedish island of Fårö, or is that your nightmare?
Also, if you are a man in a heterosexual relationship, now would be a good time to help clean up. Don’t be like Bergman!
We’re taking a trek up north to Anders’s native Norway now, which means we’ll need a Norwegian lunch. The good news is that Norway is famed for its kneippbrød, a brown whole-grain loaf that’s pretty simple to make. (Here’s a recipe using common American ingredients.) I feel like people have gotten really into making their own gravlax in the past few years, so if you’re fish-friendly, that is an option, too. Both of those will require advance planning, though. An easier way to stay on theme might simply be finding a bottle of aquavit and going to town. Norwegians reportedly drink it at room temperature and very slowly. It may as well be water!
Hope you didn’t drink too much because you are going to have to leave your house and head to a movie theater. (I’m writing this as someone who lives a five-minute walk from a Nighthawk. Obviously do not drink and drive.) You are going to see The Worst Person in the World, a movie about a 30-something Dakota Johnson doppelgänger trying to figure out her life. The film just got nominated for two Oscars: International Film and Original Screenplay. Hooray! Though Worst Person made it onto all three of our critics’ best-of-2021 lists, it only recently opened in America, which is why you’re seeing it this weekend.
Traditional moviegoing etiquette says you shouldn’t talk as much during this one, but here are some discussion points for when you’re in the lobby afterward:
— If men had periods, is that all we would hear about?
— Do you agree with Julie that it’s better to start with a flaccid penis?
— Which of Julie and Eivind’s activities at the wedding do you personally consider cheating, if any?
— If you were in Julie’s place, would you have made the decisions she does regarding Eivind and Aksel?
— Would you be okay with your partner liking their ex’s Instagram selfies?
— Do you also feel, as Aksel does, that the world of your youth has disappeared?
By now you should be slightly melancholic, possibly still a little drunk, and wondering about the impossibility of everlasting love. Happy AndersFest!