The films of Jesper Just explore the depths of human inner thought struggles; those seemingly bland surreal scenes one was sure to have seen in a Hollywood movie somewhere, slowly detracts from the ‘normal’ story arc to bring personal or inter-personal issues to the fore through certain seemingly absurd moments, leaving the viewer with more questions than answers in the end.
Just also tends to incorporate elements of pop classics, usually in form of a song from the 80’s or 90’s, in his films as a contrast and to carry a point across; a ploy to juxtapose and heighten the ambiguity.
In No Man Is An Island 2 (2004), a young man is in a bar with several men and no women but the paintings on the wall are all nudes. The place is quiet. Suddenly he starts singing “Crying” by Roy Orbison, which is totally awkward at first, but slowly one by one the other people stand up and join in. Young man starts crying in the middle of the song. A lesson on perseverance even when its seems odd to do so?
In Something To Love (2005), a man is riding in the back of a car in semi slow motion within a parking garage. An old man drives in the front seat. The garage is practically empty. Monotony sets in as the bland garage columns and empty parking spots pass by one after the other. Finally the car stops, old man gets out, opens the door for young man, who steps out of the car. The young man then turns and goes into the stairwell and into the elevator.
Suddenly the hold man decides to try to stop him, but its too late. He’s already kissing this girl inside the elevator cab, which has been transformed into a music box, as the pair spin around like a music top, totally enthralled, totally enjoying the moment. The old man looks at them with tears in his eyes. The beautiful girl first realizes he’s there and expresses the awkwardness of the situation. Then the young man realizes he’s there, turns toward him, leaves the girl, to go back into the car with the old man driving again.
The old man to me represents ‘duty’ or ‘social pressure’, some sort of thing that people expect you to do, and the beautiful girl represents ‘idealism’ or ‘dream’; something you want in your heart to do, but then ‘duty’ calls and you have to ‘obey’, because to not would be to ‘break his heart’.
In A Vicious Undertow (2007) the scene opens in black and white with a Chinese painting and the music is reminiscent somewhat of old western movies, and in a way reminds of (Quentin) Tarantino’s pastiche with western movies. The scene transitions to the dress of a woman, a Chinese ‘qi pao’, with a pattern similar to the Chinese painting, who appears to be whistling to the music, but she also could just be mumbling something. The paintings on the wall are Chinese looking paintings.
The camera pans and another woman is revealed to be in the room. They communicate sensually by looking at each other and touching their surroundings with their fingers. Another person, a man, is also revealed to be in the room. They all whistle to the same music playing, and finally first woman decides she can’t hold it in any longer and takes the second woman by the hand and waltzes with her. The music then changes with music box tinkering sounds, as the ladies spin around as in a music box.
Then heavy drum beating is introduced, as the man is seen waltzing with the first and second woman individually, and later changes again with wierd psychotic sounds as the first woman realizes that the second woman likes dancing with the man more than with her. She leaves and goes up the spiral stairs outdoors, out into the icy cold night, climbing higher and higher up the circular tower until she gets to the top, where it is unclear what she would do next.
While the film definitely deals with human desire, in this case a threesome, but unlike usual cases where the dominant person is the man who usually doesn’t care as long as he gets his sexual fix, in this case its the first woman, who is obviously lesbian and can’t stand men, but who cares and is actually hurt that the other woman likes the man more than herself. The fact that it is shot in black and white, a reference to classic romance films, coupled with the fact that sex is never explicitly depicted or even suggested – all they do is whistle and dance with each other, adds to the ambiguity of the situation.
The story arc of a ‘normal’ film would probably lead to a sexual scene after the non-verbal language of desire; after all the looking and suggestive touching, but in this case it doesn’t lead to that.
In Bliss And Heaven (2004), a young man walks along a deserted field. A container truck passes by and stops in a loading area. An older man steps out, checks to see that no one is watching and sneaks in the back of the container. The younger man sneaks closer and ends up following him through the back.
Inside, it turns out, is a classical theatre and the older man is in the spot light on stage with a blond wig, doing a performance of Olivia Newton John’s “Please Don’t Keep Me Waiting” in a deep baritone voice. He gets more and more animated as the song progresses when suddenly he notices he being watched, starts breaking down, and finally the curtains are drawn and the young man is left alone in the huge, empty theatre. He claps progressively harder and harder in appreciation as it dawns on him what he has just witnessed.
It seems the old man has been a truck driver his whole adult life and singing on stage (as a blond woman) is his ‘dream’, the only state of being in which he can be totally free and uninhibited, but it is also something which he dares not share with anyone.
Just seems to use outrageous scenes to carry a point across; men crying, woman being the lead character in a romantic film, a cross-dressing truck driver, a man stops kissing a beautiful woman to get in a car with an old man to drive around a parking garage, these all seemingly absurd moments reflect the absurdity we sometimes have in our own lives.