Hypnotic Yet Dull
It's never really explained why the two children spend their spare time playing Slave. It's just a fact of this universe, the same way there is a quartet singing American folk songs. Possibly it indicates how completely out of touch with everything the village is, that a child in the twenty-first century thinks that's a perfectly acceptable thing to do. It's also true that kids do weird things and always have. My cousins used to jump out of a second-floor window all the time. (Because one of them had fallen out, and it looked like fun.) However, it's worth noting that the adults never notice what the kids are doing. They have that peculiar belief that being the same age and in the same physical location means you must be friends. Though on the other hand, they seem to believe that will happen with them as well. Possibly this is a lesson learned all the way 'round, then, but I doubt it.
Elisabeth (Maibritt Saerens) and Sigve (Henrik Rafaelsen) have come to a small Norwegian town along with their adopted Ethiopian son, Noa (Ram Shihab Ebedy). Their new neighbours are Kaja (Agnes Kittelsen) and Eirik (Joachim Rafaelsen) and their son, Theodor (Oskar Hernęs Brandsų). Kaja has been lonely, and Eirik mostly ignores her, so she latches onto Elisabeth with delight. Only Elisabeth doesn't much like Kaja and thinks she's a bit of a twit. Which, to be fair, she is. But she's eager to please. One night, the couples are playing a getting-to-know-you game. It is revealed that Elisabeth and Sigve have moved to the country to patch up their relationship after Elisabeth had an affair. Meanwhile, Kaja and Eirik haven't had sex in a year. Kaja gives Eirik oral sex in the kitchen when he goes out to comfort her. They start having a full-blown affair. And it turns out that the reason Eirik doesn't have any interest in having sex with Kaja is that, well, Sigve is really more his type.
Kaja thinks that Elisabeth and Sigve are a perfect couple, but among other things, they're lousy parents. It almost seems that they adopted Noa as a fashion statement. They certainly don't notice that the neighbour kid is making him carry baskets on his head and whipping him with towels and so forth. Of course, they don't seem to notice much about each other a lot of the time, and they certainly look down on Kaja and Eirik, even though they are the way they are mostly because they haven't had any opportunities to be anyone else. Sigve believed that taking Elisabeth and Noa away into the country was the solution to their relationship problems, and he was clearly quite astoundingly wrong about that. I'd note that he was also selfish enough so that he was willing to flaunt his affair with Kaja in front of her son, or at best not notice that he was doing it. Elisabeth eventually notices what's going on and chooses to set Kaja up for humiliation. It's pure luck that it doesn't work.
Kaja is one of those blind optimists, and I think that may have put her in the unfortunate position she was in. There's something to be said for not always looking at the bright side, and it's that you're more inclined to do something about problems if you'll acknowledge that they're there. It's quite obvious that her life isn't right. There's something wrong with her marriage that goes a bit beyond a yeast infection. She's a loving person, and she's trapped. And Eirik's attitude is rubbing off on Theodor, who flatly tells his mother that she's ugly. (My kid would have been punished for that, I assure you.) She doubtless thinks her marriage can be saved. She really does think that she and Eirik can and should have another child. She then probably thinks that she and Sigve can start a life together and everything will be fine. It's only at the end that she faces reality, and it's only at the end that she is able to take steps to make her new life worthwhile.
The character whose eventual fate I wonder about is Noa. He's not a happy child. We see him watching Obama give a speech about our core values and the fear that they are evaporating, but I can't imagine that he understands it, given there's no indication that he speaks English. In fact, he hardly speaks at all. We don't know enough about him to know what caused it. Maybe he's just a quiet kid. Some are. But he doesn't seem able to tell his parents when he's not happy with things. He doesn't seem to really feel much of anything, I think, or at least be able to express it. I doubt his opinion was asked about this particular little move. Or the move away. Every time they showed him, which wasn't often, I was struck by how dark his skin was compared to everyone around him. How dark he was compared to the snow around him. This was a child out of place, a child disregarded by pretty much everyone around him. Even the story doesn't really seem to care much about him, not enough to bother giving him a personality.