The Scandinavian Film Festival is only running in Canberra for 9 more days (it opened on Tuesday), so it’s a short time to see all the Norwegian features. It has four Norwegian films: Beatles, Homesick, Out of Nature and Underdog. Apart from enjoying the movies, hearing the Norsk pronunciation really helps to get a sense of the language (and I need all the help I can get!).
Tonight I saw Homesick (De nærmeste) (it screens again next week), you may have seen an intimate shot from it in the Festival’s promotions.
Before I saw the movie, I was really thinking of the concept of homesickness, and how it relates to my heritage. The story was a lot more confronting than I expected – and I had planned to see it again as Norwegian practice, but I won’t be doing that and definitely not with family! I don’t want to spoil the story, so I’ll just say that generally I thought that Charlotte had a unique vulnerability and an abandonment pattern. The motif of family jewellery was really powerful, with the circle of a necklace symbolising group membership. It was very challenging, I felt more awkwardness in it than a satisfying “Nordic melancholia”. I noticed a few different words though, so it wasn’t without benefit.
One good thing about the movie was seeing another moviegoer in this wondrous and totally relevant home-knitted jumper. He said a friend made it 20 years ago. The front had SKI knitted in navy, little Vs picked out on the white woolly snow expanse. He didn’t understand why I was so enthralled with it, I can’t really explain it either.
I’d like to have a proper immersion experience in Norwegian culture – I guess the point of this is that not every part of a country will be what you want to watch. It is odd to feel homesick for a place you don’t really know – a sort of hiraeth. My family is Norwegian, and having grown up in Australia, I’d like to have a better sense of Norway to help resolve my anaemic cultural identity. It’s existing in that interstitial space between, when your name means people regularly ask about your background but the answer never satisfies, it’s the pieces that don’t match up. When I worked in hospitality (15 years ago), an older colleague said he gained such a feeling of connection when he went back to the “mother country”, seeing behaviours in context which then increased his self-understanding. I didn’t grasp the significance at the time, but he said that one day I’d be overcome by a nostalgic longing for my heritage. He was right.
Fiona Watson has said that homesickness can be triggered by anything: “You see an image and it immediately goes straight to your heart.” Mary Jaksch highlights the importance of visiting the landscape of your parents and grandparents: “I now know where I come from, and have reconnected with my roots.”
Recently the City News’ Canberra Confidential column chortled at Visit Canberra being a bit “excitable” for tweeting about resources for researching the wartime experiences of relatives (family history research and geneaology). They must never have felt the satisfaction of discovering how your ancestors met (on an overnight boat trip, and married the next day), gaining knowledge about future propensity for medical conditions (sitting at a table-full of people, all with intense party tricks due to hypermobile joints), the spookiness of seeing your features in an ancestor’s portrait or learning about your namesake. Perhaps documenting and preserving your family story isn’t what everyone would choose in a holiday, but for some it’s a definite drawcard for visiting Canberra (the AWM, NLA, AIATSIS, ACTHL, NGA and more). Increased traffic to these institutions shows that for many people, family history and genealogy IS exciting. Genealogists (tourists and locals) contribute to Canberra’s economy and have a deep appreciation for our cultural institutions, collections and their services.
If it’s not exciting to learn about the past, the success of Who do you think you are? as a television program must be an anomaly.
I have a searing hope that I might visit Norway again soon. I like the idea of carrying places within us, “…keeping the old environment alive inside…” (this quote was in a very different context, but it’s from van Tilburg, M. & Vingerhoets, A., Psychological aspects of geographical moves: homesickness and acculturation stress, Amsterdam University Press, 2007, p. 106). In the meantime, I’ll hope to enjoy the other movies in the festival and keep watching Desperate Housewives with Norwegian subtitles.
I’m cultivating a new habit to practice Norwegian every day, to make it easier when I visit there and make drawings amongst the fjords and mountains (plus it will help me communicate with my family!).
After I spent a lot of money on “normal” language resources I realised it was more helpful to watch TV series with Norsk subtitles. Using different language subtitles with your favourite shows can also give you a better insight into the program’s subject matter. Desperate Housewives has such an intense focus on food – many repetitions of spise (eat) and middag (dinner), unsurprisingly another top hit was elsker (love). But if I had Will Powell’s realtime translation glasses then I wouldn’t have to do all that searching. In the meantime I’ll watch my backlog of Grey’s Anatomy first (in Norsk, naturally!).
So how do you find which TV shows and movies have the subtitles you need? This is where extra information in library catalogue records comes in handy, if the subtitle information is included then of course it’s searchable. Here’s how to find DVDs with subtitles of your language of interest, keeping in mind that there will be display and menu variations between library catalogues:
First, get a moment alone with your regular library’s catalogue, or for a bigger overview, use the general Trove site which is the library catalogue for the whole of Australia (I know! It’s mind-boggling).
From the Advanced search option, use an “any keyword” or “general” field and type in your language, e.g. “Norwegian” and combine it with the word “subtitle*” (using an asterisk might be a help or a hindrance – at the moment you’re searching for subtitle/s, but if it doesn’t work just remove it).
If you don’t get the results you seek, try using the name of the language itself, i.e. “Norsk”.
Still no results? What about looking at the format menu (this tells you the materials being searched, so you can restrict your results to just one type), select limits of “All DVD” or video or video-captioned or AV materials. If these options aren’t available, another workaround is to include a general search term “videorecording”. Even if you want a DVD (not a VHS), this will still work for some items, as this word can be used in the title description. However, some libraries have changed this to state DVD.
The results will really vary based on the Norwegian vs. Norsk search terms, “Norwegian” was certainly more successful in terms of results in this Trove example search. Notice how some results are in “Books” and after scrolling, some are in “Music, sound and video”. I’m sure someone has created a guided search to make getting these results in any library catalogue much easier!
I’m tweeting my progress and will cluster the results to make a little vocabulary list so that my Dad can see that I’m doing my Norwegian homework! (or you might like to learn with me). #EttOrdOmDagen
(note on the image: the orange jumper was knitted by my very talented Farmor, and the little wolf badge used to have a nose but the cats ate it.)