Knut-Robby is an aimless young man who likes to make donuts with his car in gravel pits, throw rocks in the river, smoke cigarettes and generally goof around.
One day he gets a special delivery: the “Library of God,” which keeps the life stories of everyone on earth, is running out of room. To make more space, they are offloading the books about people whose lives are not that interesting. Knut-Robby’s is one of those wasted, boring lives. But Knut-Robby disagrees and tries to prove that he’s worthy of inclusion.
Writer-director Stian Hafstad’s whimsical, sharp-witted short comedy has a clever and fanciful premise, but outside of a few charmingly offhand special effects, it executes its idea in a mostly naturalistic way. Instead of getting caught up in the how and why of the library, the narrative uses the idea to explore what it means to live a purposeful life — and how we react when confronted with the meaninglessness of it all.
Confronting the existential dilemmas of life is a heavy subject, but the film’s style and writing offer plenty of levity and wit. Touches of eccentricity and flamboyance pop up in the craftsmanship, from the mockingly serious voiceover to the exalted choral score to the dynamic camerawork and halo-like lighting during certain moments. Though Knut-Robby’s existential crisis is serious, the film treats it with a light touch, using it as a vehicle for some hilarious zingers and a conduit to explore his scrambling desperate reaction at being judged as too meaningless for eternity.
Throughout the film, other people get similar news to Knut-Robby, with different reactions that reveal a range of philosophical positions. One woman finds it a relief to exist without the pressure of making life matter; another has a drastic, angry reaction against God. Knut-Robby’s methods to get back into the library reflect his immaturity, but also his sense of fun and enjoyment, as played with great comic timing and charm by actor Peter Forde. The moment when he realizes his life is truly meaningless is played for sincerity, and Knut-Robby is genuinely distressed that his time on earth has seemingly been wasted. But then he gets an unexpected boost and embraces challenge in a way that’s true for him.
“Library of God” is a tricky balancing act, blending comedy and philosophy in a way similar to films by a writer-director like David O. Russell, whose tragicomic characters grapple with serious issues in often darkly humorous way. But instead of being abrasive, this short is witty, amiable and fun to spend time with, much like Knut-Robby himself, who stakes out the right to enjoy life on his terms. He may be slightly more goal-oriented after his existential crisis, but those goals are true to his nature — which, in the end, is the only foundation to build happiness upon.