The titular occupation in the Norwegian film “The Prompter” is the person at an opera who sits in that little box at the front of the stage, cuing the performers on their lines.
Siv (Hege Schï¿½yen) is a plain, 30-something woman who loves her job as a prompter, and who loves opera in general. Her new husband, Fred (Sven Nordin), a divorcee with two kids, unfortunately has little regard for Siv’s profession (he calls her in the middle of a rehearsal to tell her to make spaghetti for dinner) — and, it would seem, little regard for her feelings in general. He makes no attempt to make Siv feel at home with her stepchildren, and he seems too hung up on his ex-wife, Helen, who moves in with them following an accident (the film’s one flaw, plot-wise, as this is simply too pig-headed, even for her pig-headed husband).
Siv’s battle is uphill all the way. Fitting in as a second wife is hard enough; it doesn’t help that the song Fred’s mother sings at their wedding is the same one she sang at Fred’s first wedding, with the name Helen replaced with the name Siv. Siv, a fragile, delicate, beautiful-on-the-inside woman, is easily stepped on, and easily hurt.
The only part of her life she has any control over, in fact, is her job. When she’s prompting, she has authority. She knows what the singers should be singing, and no one questions her. Having the score in front of her is comforting, as it means there’s no guess-work. Her real life, unfortunately, has no script, and its increasingly frustrating turns threaten to make it every bit as operatic as the production of “Aida” she’s working with.
Siv knows everyone’s part onstage; it’s her own role, offstage, that eludes her. This is a compassionate, eminently human film about a woman’s struggle to find herself and her place in life. Hege Schï¿½yen is magnificent in the lead role, showing us every nuance of Siv’s meek soul. Her story is one familiar to anyone who has ever realized that “just being yourself” doesn’t always bring happiness, even though it should.
B+ (; )