Norwegian director Hilde Heier’s splendid first feature tells an understated story about a woman living a very confined life and her efforts to break free. Siv (which means straw, something fragile and easily broken) lives for her work. As the prompter at the opera, she is not just devoted to music but carries on a passionate love affair with it. And although her personal life has seemed unfulfilling in the past, she is, at a more mature age, about to be married for the first time, even if it is to a recent divorcee.
However, her hopes for marital bliss are undercut by her spouse’s two children from his previous marriage, and she seems unwilling, perhaps even unable, to command respect. Meanwhile, at work the demands of a prima donna make for increasingly tense circumstances. As her living situation deteriorates further, her passivity and fears seem ready to leave her more confined and powerless than ever.
In this year’s submission from Norway for the Academy Award, director Heier has sculpted a multilayered and emotionally potent account that builds in intensity and power as Siv struggles to find herself. With its focus on a mature subject and a tone that is carefully orchestrated, this is a fully accomplished work of great presence and poise. With a sterling performance by Hege Schuyen and all-around luminous production values, <i>The Prompter</i> is an excellent example of the cinema’s ability to tell human stories that resonate and elevate the audience to peaks of feeling and comprehension.
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