Swedish director Bent Hamer's Kitchen Stories is one part Magnus Mills novel, one part quirky Euro-comedy, and one part Ikea. In other words, it's as captivating as it seems slow; as drink-spit funny -- and heartache sad -- as it seems subtle; as complex as it is minimalist. It's '50s Scandinavia: The Swedish Home Research Unit was successful with its map of women's kitchen usage, and wants to make one for bachelor men. Observers, including Folke (Joachim Calmeyer), are sent to rural Norway to live with volunteers, spending days perched on high chairs overlooking the kitchen, but not even speaking to their subjects. That proves difficult, even with withdrawn Isak (Tomas Norström), and eventually everything comes out: From small talk to bitter wartime politics (Sweden was neutral; Norway conquered). Hamer nearly succumbs to a pure allegory of power and stance, his characters' physical positioning more important than their lives. But Norström and Calmeyer will have none of it: Through them, Isak and Folke become beautifully sad creatures beyond the political meanings they're assigned, and men whose lives intersect under the oddest of circumstances. In Norwegian and Swedish with subtitles.