In the Norwegian drama “Disco,” the second-time feature director Jorunn Myklebust Syversen demonstrates a strong feel for pulsing bass, neon lighting and discomfiting close-ups but a somewhat vaguer sense of character and theme.
The movie centers on a teenager named Mirjam (Josefine Frida), a highly competitive championship dancer. She is also seriously committed to her Christianity, or at least grew up thinking she had to be. She listens to audio of English-language sermons. Her stepfather, Per (Nicolai Cleve Broch), is a pastor at a modern church that more obviously resembles an indie coffee bar and attached performance space. Mirjam pitches in and sings devotional pop music.
Outwardly hip, Per is controlling at home, manipulating his wife, Vanja (Kjaersti Odden Skjeldal), and Mirjam, and wanting his family to distance themselves from Vanja’s brother, a wealthy televangelist whom Per regards as a fraud. (The brother is shown leading an ostensibly cancer-healing ceremony on TV and participating in a homophobic ritual later on.)
The movie’s placid surfaces conceal signs of repression and discord. Mirjam appears to have bulimia, and there’s an unspoken history of sexual abuse within her family. Mirjam goes to an island religious camp where children, on the pretense of expelling demons from their bodies, breathe into bags until they pass out.
Still, all of this simmering tension doesn’t develop into much. By the time it is over, “Disco” has crossed the line that separates being productively ambiguous from being simply cryptic.
Not Rated. In Norwegian, with subtitles. Running time: 1 hour 34 minutes. Rent or buy on Amazon and Google Play.
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