siblings are forever

posted December 23, 2013

A beautiful film: http://soskentilevigtid.no/home/

“Siblings are Forever” is a warm and poetic documentary about a brother-and-sister couple, Magnar and Oddny. Both are about 70 years old. They live on the family farm at Kleiva in Naustdal, a few miles from Førde in Sogn & Fjordane county. The siblings run the farm in about the same manner as it was run by several generations before them. They are content, above all else, to continue this tradition for as long as their health permits them to do so.

From all appearances, it seems that time has stood still for them, without their noticing that time, nevertheless, is running out. Most of the film’s subject matter is about life in the natural surroundings, in the barn and inside the home. 

The large oak tree on the farmyard is given much attention. For the couple, it provides signs of spring and prepares them for the good and bad times to come. The fields must be fertilized, sowed and harvested.  The cows must be fed, milked and groomed. Calves must be born and raised. The sibling couple devote all their time, knowledge and love to these tasks. Autumn is the season for slaughtering the animals.

The deer stock in the forest is also part of life at Kleiva. Deer come down to the farm undisturbed throughout the year, but life is particularly difficult for them during winter, when the snow is deep. They get the help they need from the siblings, who generously share some of the grain feed intended for the animals in the barn. As a sign of gratitude for this charity, the deer voraciously eat the couple’s plum trees for dessert. This results in a negative balance on the couple’s financial account.

The highlight of their existence is when they take their livestock on the annual pilgrimage to the mountains for summer grazing. This entails both summer holidays and summer chores at the same time.  But can this routine last forever? Advancing age and failing health are reasons for questioning whether there is to be summer grazing in the mountains this year. If so, will this be the last year of summer pastures?

Changes have been minimal at Kleiva over several generations. A few innovations have been adopted, however. The farm’s workhorse was replaced by a tractor during the 1960s. Electricity and a telephone were installed during the 1970s. In the 1980s, they acquired a combination radio-and-cassette player,  a luxury that was highly prized and often used. Unfortunately it broke down a few years ago, and now they are left with a box full of audio cassettes with music they can no longer listen to.

Recently they received a letter from America. Magnar had to take it to Førde to have it translated. The writer was a distant relative.

Magnar and Oddny’s grandfather had several siblings who emigrated to the United States. At that time, prospects for the future were much darker than now. Still, the farm today has no prospective heirs. In 2013, the “emigrants” can treat themselves to a visit to the old country.

Magnar is satisfied with his life. He avoided putting himself in debt and he sleeps well at night. Still, a new radio and cassette player would have been nice to have. He wants to buy one as a Christmas present for Oddny. And he has been looking at a mobile telephone.  It might be useful to have one of those when he is in the forest, he thinks. One never knows what might happen to a fellow wandering alone out there.