Off-List: Rend mig i traditionerne
The third off-List movie of 1979 and my Danish contribution is a movie only known by its Danish title “Rend mig i traditionerne”, which translates to something like “To Hell with Traditions”. It is the film version of a novel by Danish writer Leif Panduro, one of those novels that all high school students in Denmark get to read, myself included.
This is the story of David (Henrik Koefoed), a high school student who gets his tie stuck in a venting machine and is arrested by an overzealous policeman who is convinced he tried to rob the machine. When his relations come to pick him up from the police station, he starts barking and bite people. Convinced he has lost his mind he is committed to a mental hospital.
What we see at the hospital is that everybody are mostly interested in their own agenda and how David fit into it, the doctor (Axel Strøbye), the nurses and David’s relations. Especially David’s wealthy and self-obsessed mother (Bodil Kjær) and his business-like brother (Hans Rostrup). Instead David forms a friendship with the completely off-the-planet crazy Mr. Traubert (Olaf Ussing). He is the only one not looking at David with condescension. Gradually we learn through flashbacks how David ended up in this place.
David’s problem is that he is confused about what to do with himself. There is pressure on him to act in a certain way, be a certain kind of person, follow social codes. David is just a teenager reacting to and against this pressure. When his teachers reach out to him in friendship, instead of following the social norm, he does the opposite and kick their butts. The family’s plans for him just makes him want to hide and ignore them and his relationship to girls is an entire can of worms on its own.
This could have been a tragic social-realistic drama, but it is the exact opposite. “Rend mig i traditionerne” plays for comedy in every scene. Even David’s breakdown is funny. David’s family is ridiculously self-obsessed and the hospital staff so condescending that they seem entirely uninterested in the patients. All this does give the whole thing a bit of surreal feel and while it may be confusing at first, it is entirely intentional. All those things we consider normal and expected behavior has something irrational in it and this is how David looks at it. He is so tired of people who have all the answers because how on Earth can they know how he is feeling?
In a world of madness, the actual crazy people are quire refreshing.
The lesson for David is to not run away and hide, but admit to who he is and what he feels and not be dominated by outside expectations and of course he gets there in the end with the assistance of girlfriend Lis (Karin Wedel).
The book was one of the great anti-conformist novels of the seventies and it managed to tap right into that anxiety that most teenagers feel at some level. That contributed greatly to its popularity in a rebellious era, but it still holds validity today. The movie maybe aims a little to much to the silly side for comfort but it is a decent rendition of the story and as usual begs for a reread of the novel.
I have no idea if “Rend mig i traditionerne” was ever released abroad, but I am fairly confident the novel is available in English.