As its title implies, “nothing to laugh at” addresses a serious issue.
Directed by Peter Nass, the Norwegian film focuses on a 40-year-old successful stand-up comedian whose whole life changes in a day: not only is his show canceled, but he also breaks up with his girlfriend and has to deal with a doctor from her. With a devastating diagnosis – bone cancer.
“Nothing to Know Laughing” had its international premiere at the Zurich Film Festival last week, having previously opened at the Norwegian cinema hall number two behind “Dun”.
Instead of focusing on the film’s cancer side, the festival’s program notes describe the film as “an interesting, heart-warming and humorous story of a man who is ready to rediscover his smile.”
And that’s exactly the kind of film that Nass – best known for directing Norway’s 2002 Oscar entry “Ealing” – is ready to make.
The day after the Zurich premiere, he said, “When we were going to release it, we tried to avoid using the word cancer – because instantly people think they don’t want to see it.” “It’s not a comedy about cancer. It’s a movie about the desire to survive.”
For comparison, he arrives for a film where obviously difficult subjects give us the opportunity to explore how we live our lives.
“Life is beautiful,” said Roberto Benigni, the Oscar winner, “not so much a movie about the Holocaust as an illusion.” The French hit “The Intouchables” is “not a comedy about a person in a wheelchair, it’s a great movie about an odd couple relationship.”
The same can be said about Nasser’s “Ealing”, a strange couple comedy with two friends who were dropped off from a psychiatric center in a flat in central Oslo.
The cast of “Nothing to Laugh About”, led by Odd-Magnus Williamson, who also wrote the script. Nass says that when he first read Williamson’s script while boarding a train in Norway, he liked how seriously it balances humor. “I’ve been scared to death all my life – and I’ve always used humor to ventilate it.”
Initially, he admitted, though he was suspicious. “I thought it was another movie about the ruined barbarians in Oslo and those who are never satisfied. But all of a sudden I realized I was wrong and I went on this emotional rollercoaster – I laughed and I cried. I wanted the passengers on the train to go see a movie one day and understand why. ”
Næss, who has worked extensively in film as well as theater and TV, had previously performed a show with terminal cancer patients. “All the research we did then was that the most difficult thing for people with cancer is to deal with others – because they stop being funny and get very serious around them. But they said they want to behave like living, regular people. .
Nass added: “The serious aspects of the film are no less serious because they are treated with humor.”
The film team consulted with Norwegian doctors and cancer agencies. “Before we started shooting, they read the script and said, ‘We need this kind of movie right now.'”
One can see why. According to Cancer Research UK, one in two people born after 1960 in the UK will be diagnosed with some form of cancer in their lifetime. With so many people being touched by cancer, “nothing to laugh at” can be found by viewers above all – regardless of the content.