Filip Christensen’s film oeuvre over the last decade has been nothing less than stellar and with Being There he’s done it again, delivering a pretty well perfect 55 minutes of beautifully filmed and tightly edited ski footage. His crew of skiers comes across like they are having the absolute best time of their lives with their upbeat attitudes and the plain old smiles on their faces. With that footage and those vibes from the skiers, Being There has you wanting to hit play again and hit the slopes yourself in equal measures.
Being a Norwegian film company, Field seems to trip up a lot of critics because their skier crew doesn’t get huge coverage in the North American press and they are not the first choices for North American brands when looking for skiers to sponsor. If winning Olympic gold medals, like Aksel Lund Svindal has done, isn’t enough to get some credit and recognition, well, that’s being overly tough. But all is not lost. Christensen’s secret weapon for North American audiences has been Tom Wallisch (who’s been in every Field ski movie since 2008’s Get Lucky) and with Wallisch’s massive success on the competition circuit in 2010 and 2011, Field’s investment has paid off. Christensen’s canny decision to let Wallisch’s engaging personality and commentary run without a governor in Being There works beautifully. Ski fans like Wallisch and so they’re predisposed to liking what’s going on here and it all works to make Field a contender in the North American ski movie world, right up there with Matchstick and Teton Gravity Research.
As with his other works, Christensen’s new film comes down to the meticulous care taken with the cinematography and the editing, particularly the timing of the ski tricks to the music. While this is a ski movie staple, the directing team of Christensen, Even Sigstad and Jan Petter Aarskog (new this year to the director’s chair at Field having served as an editor in earlier films) work smoothly to provide the maximum pay-off as they set the scene with brilliant landscapes, transition through shots of the skiers, glide into the approach runs and then nail the whole sequence with the landing of a stunning trick just as the music hits a crescendo. Whether it’s big mountain, big air or urban rails, the Field team weaves their camera angles seamlessly, creating a driving, kinetic display of ski tricks in all their complexity and grace. With those perfect edits to the music, Christensen is clearly building a recognizable style and body of work in his ski films.
In fact, it’s obvious that a big part of the lyrical quality of Being There, its seamless transitions and its easy flow comes down to the actual music itself. The opening verses of Hooray for Earth’s “No Love” underpins Jesper Tjader’s opening sequence replete with all his crashes and the band’s big, glorious chord changes hit just as he finally stomps his first trick. The combination smells like victory and you can’t help but say “Hell Yeah” as Tjader goes to work on whatever is put in front of him in the shots that follow. Australia’s Bag Raiders’ pop-trance inflected “Way Back Home” provides the seemingly perfect soundtrack for the slow-motion big air work in a sunrise shoot at Strandafjellet. The track’s big vocal melody line is up-beat and it accentuates the shots without getting in the way as Wallisch, Hunder, Aurdal and company bring home the Cab 9s and Dub 10s. Awolnation’s “Sail” works the same way in providing the drama for Aleksander Aurdal’s switch double misty 12 at the start of the closing credits. Field isn’t the only company to have picked up on the fact that this track works great in sports action films – it’s used in at least three ski films this year as well as one wakeboard movie. Field’s soundtracks are always on point and that always leads to repeated viewings of their movies.
Being There also reveals another ace up the Field Productions sleeve. Viewers of last year’s offering Side By Side were introduced to 16 year old Jesper Tjader via Jon Olsson and watched the kid pull off a variety of tricks including a double cork 1440. Jesper gets a whole lot more time in front of the lens in Being There and one can’t help but get that feeling when you know your seeing a real talent emerge. Kind of like Sean Pettit’s opening scene in Matchstick’s 2009 In Deep, you just shake your head and wonder what good things he did in a previous life to be blessed with such monster talent in this one. He kills huge rails and stomps two back flips in a row off a pair of kickers. This kid’s a phenom in a movie chocked full of serious talent. He gets bonus points for having a Tanner Hall-style work ethic too as the film shows him relentlessly hitting the rails until he finally scores the trick.
Christensen’s ability to place a camera and his ingenuity in getting the shot (whether it be a camera on a wire or from a helicopter) is something to behold. Being There is a truly beautiful sports action film. One has to wonder when someone in Hollywood will tap him to helm a full-on action thriller theatrical release. By Mark “The Attorney General” Quail