A look back to Berit Nesheim’s The Other Side of Sunday (1997)

Berit Nesheim’s peculiar coming-of-age film, The Other Side of Sunday ironically enough takes both a stab and a kiss towards established religion. One cannot analyze this film without keeping in mind the wise words of the Roman dramatist Publius Terentius Afer who once said “moderation in all things.” This is specifically true in the case of Maria, a young teen whose father, a priest of a Norwegian church, monitors her every move and every decision so that it may lead to a proper “Christian life-style”. Let us keep in mind that the film is set around a 1950s Norwegian town whose strict Christian upbringing has left their perception of all things pleasurable, beautiful, enjoyable, or even sociable to be of sin; while their lack of love and leniency for their children seems to go against any and all Biblical truths spoken about on Sundays. Due to this, Maria is left to rebel. She wants to wear earrings, she wants to wear make up, her chest is constantly covered up and she wants to have big breasts like the “other sinful women!” Maria later becomes friends with the woman her father is actually having an affair with, Mrs. Tunheim. Tunheim seems to be the older version of Maria. A woman who wants to be a free spirit amongst the flowing water of the river, but is constantly brought back to reality on Sundays, where her uncolored lips and naked ears remain attentive to the sermons of her lover. However, Maria envies her and Mrs. Tunheim realizes this. Tunheim takes this opportunity to teach Maria that she needs to live freely amongst her own will, and that God only smiles at the chances we take in being ourselves, rather in the chances we miss while being like everyone else. A line from the film that really delves into the larger part of the picture seems to allude the overall theme which lends itself to the imperfection of human beings. Out of frustration of her father’s forceful ways, Maria aggressively asks him, “Why did God do such a lousy job in creating us? I mean, he created a species of people that constantly have to ask for forgiveness of their actions.” This bewilders the priest and he is left speechless. The Other Side of Sunday seems to be concerned with the differences between having a religion and having God. For God is not religion, since religion is something man made. Maria thus addresses the imperfection Christianity has created and the unfairness it lends itself to in hiding the beauty of women. The Other Side of Sunday is a very thought-provoking film and one that should be viewed, not as a religious piece, but rather one that concerns all humans and the imperfection we have manifested within ourselves which should not be ignored, but rather embraced.

Thank you for reading,

Omar Antonio Iturriaga