In the canon of bittersweet melodies, few compositions rest more comfortably at the intersection of happiness and sadness than “Auld Lang Syne.” It’s the sort of tune that leaves you unsure whether you should joyously raise your glass or quietly weep in between sips. These inherently conflicting emotions are perhaps best reflected by the fact that the song is recited at funerals and moments of mourning almost as much as it is at graduations and other moments of celebration. It’s fitting, then, that “Auld Lange Syne” has been adopted by much of the anglophone world as the official anthem of New Year’s Eve. Although December 31 is typically marketed to us merely as frivolous revelry, it’s hard to deny the litany of emotions that we invite upon ourselves on a night that produces so much introspection. This ambivalence gets even more complex when it’s reflected off of our romantic partners — as today’s Staff Pick Premiere, “Nothing Ever Really Ends,” so beautifully illustrates.
Written and directed by Norwegian director Jakob Rørvik, “Nothing Ever Really Ends” follows a young couple, Ebba (Kristin Jess Rodin) and Marius (Arthur Berning), as they semi-ritualistically break up and reconcile over the course of three consecutive New Year’s Eve celebrations. According to Rørvik, New Year’s Eve “is that one [night] where I always mull over whatever mistakes I’ve made (and small victories I’ve had) in the year I’m leaving behind.” Therein lies the peril for Ebba and Marius: each consecutive New Year’s celebration serves to pop the cork off of a year’s worth of insecurities and disappointments bubbling up in each of them. That said, there isn’t anything particularly explosive about their confrontations. Even in their most tender on-screen moments, Ebba and Marius lovingly volley insults toward one another in a manner that’s more reminiscent of Ralph and Alice from The Honeymooners than it is George and Martha from Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
The result is a portrait of a couple whose love for one another is inherently intertwined with the vulnerabilities that threaten to undercut that same love. These are the sorts of relationships that Rørvik is most drawn to as a filmmaker. “Whenever I see a drama where the story of a couple falls into some sort of either-or depiction … I lose interest,” says Rørvik. He goes on to add that “in my experience, the sweet and the sour, the hope, and the worries all tend to mix together and exist in a thousand grey areas.” This superimposition of competing emotions comes to a stunning crescendo in the final sequence of the film as we jump from past to present and vice versa, torn between nostalgia for what was and uncertain hope for what may become. We leave Ebba and Marius on the roof of their home with a thin layer of snow beneath their feet as fireworks crackle overhead, reminding us that we’re usually somewhere in between hot and cold.
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