Friday, April 09, 2004

Returning to repairmen POMPEL&PILT (dir. Ebbe Ording), we made some investigations into whether this fine piece of TV entertainment, in the form of puppeteering 1960s style is available to young and eager minds of today. And lo and behold. NRK, the Norwegian State Broadcaster is now publishing the series as a DVD for the meager price of NKR 199 (USD 28.7123 according to From the web jacket:

Puppet show in black and white, with figures that were always contained in a large hall, without walls or ceiling, but equipped with doors leading nowhere. They argued incessantly, and lived in perennial fear of Gorgon the Custodian and his ravenous son.

POMPEL&PILT was first aired on NRK in 1969, and then re-broadcast several times. In around 1985 the pressure from pedagogical quarters on NRK that the series had anti-pedagogical content made the broadcaster submit that it was not "fit for children." In 1994 they caved in to contrary pressure, however, and transmitted it one more time. The current head of programming for youth and children in NRK, Kalle Fürst, calls it a "classic of cultural history." It was "pioneering and surrealist. I can't fathom how NRK in 1969 dared to put resourses into a series as peculiar as this, completely absurd in form and content." However, it is not of "sufficient quality" for children of today, even if Fürst promises to consider broadcasting it to an "adult audience, at night." He doesn't shy away from recommending the DVD on sale from his employer's sidekick on-line store, though. And hence and in all ways demonstrates his loyalty to Employer and Provider. Well done, Kalle. (

Anyway, this post was supposed to introduce the series. Bjørg and Arne Mykle wrote the script and made the dolls. There's photographs with them and the dolls at If you look closely you'll see that Pompel (the older chap with the tired eyes) and Pilt (younger and with more hair) don't have mouths.

There's another photo, in black and white, at with Pompel to the left, Pilt to the right, and Gorgon the Custodian in the center. It's kinda difficult to explain the story line, if there is one. Child psychologist Thore Langfeldt describes the mood of POMPEL&PILT as "chilling, funny and surprising" at the same time. Professor of Media Sociology Eva Bakøy explains that it made a radical break with the norm of children's television of the 1960s and 70s.

"It has no happy ending, doesn't offer a sense of that 'everything will be OK', and it communcates a chaotic and incomprehensible world," she says, adding that, first and foremost, "it was FUNNY" ( There's more on Bakøy's research at (in Norwegian).

We have managed to ascertain that there is at least five episodes of POMPEL&PILT available, and that there might be a sixth episode made. The titles of the first five parts are:
1. The repairmen are coming
2. The repairmen are returning
3. The repairmen are coming and coming
4. The repairmen are coming again
5. The repairmen are returning again

The disputed sixth episode is probably entitled "The revenge of the repairmen."

The music was performed by Arild Boman on organ, Helge Hurum, flute, and Espen Rud, drum sponge and percussion. The drum sponge was made on the basis of an old matress, onto which a number of bells and other objects were attached. When the repairmen walked around in their vast, open spaces, the sound from the drum sponge would evoke a sense of uncertainty and polyphony.

As repairmen Pompel and Pilt move around in this building, or whatever it is, trying to negotiate their way past door that lead nowhere, or back into the same room as they had just left, they meet several characters, some friendly, some not. Gorgon the Custodian appears to be the one who has comissioned Pompel and Pilt to repair something. This observation is based on that every time they encounter him, they ask if he has anything that needs repair. Upon hearing the question, Gorgon goes off on a long harangue consisting of words that resemble or sound like "repair," like a grown-up lost in her or his own long, incomprehensible sentences. When Gorgon enters into this kind of trance, Pompel and Pilt seize on the opportunity to run away, but always ends up in more difficult and mysterious situations.

They also meet Gorgon's wife and his rapacious son, Gorgon the Custodian's Assistant. Then there's also the Moffedill, who gets by on eating keys, and the numerous Migrants, who look somewhat like bicycle pumps with funny rasta hair and necks that keep extending and contracting, while they whistle. They are always busy and confusing.

Pompel and Pilt never really get to repair anything. Their world is not only confusing and absurd. It is also beyond repair.

You can download some soundbites to get a further sense of the atmosphere in the series. Each episode contains a scene where Pompel reminds Pilt that now he should surely understand that it is better with two repairmen than with no repairmen:

Gorgon the Custodian goes into his strange trance-like state here:

A makeshift translation of the first part of the first episode is available from Utopos:

It is now slightly updated, with some stage directions added, and some wording changed here and there.