July 24, 2005|I sat down with Norwegian director Hans Petter Moland over a cranberry muffin and a cup of coffee in one of the subterranean meeting rooms of Denver's Hotel Monaco. Moland, in town for an early sneak of his The Beautiful Country (a long-simmering Terrence Malick project produced by the maverick filmmaker and released this month in the United States to some critical fanfare), has been a favourite of mine since I happened across his blistering Zero Kelvin close to ten years ago. And though I tried to introduce as many people as I could to that film and its follow up, Aberdeen (both starring the incomparable Stellan Skarsgård), I confess there was something wonderful about feeling like one of an underground band's handful of fans. So the relative visibility of The Beautiful Country is bittersweet: a validation of a kind, but one that comes with an irrational proprietary jealousy. You want your heroes to do well, but at the same time you fear that now that they're gaining momentum, they're going to end up like John Woo. With The Beautiful Country, Moland has created a solid refugee drama that, while breaking no significant new ground (it's probably the least of his films so far), at least does nothing to dishonour his work in his native Norway. Erudite in heavily-accented English, Mr. Moland is at a place now where he's still surprised that anyone's seen his other pictures. And for however long that lasts, that's just how I like it.