Posts Tagged ‘Swedish cinema’

Queen of Hearts (2019) ****

Dir.: May el-Toukhy; Cast: Trine Dyrholm, Magnus Kepper, Gustav Lindt, Liv Esmar Dannemann, Silja Esmar Dannemann; Sweden/Denmark 2018, 127 min.

May el-Toukhy (Long Story Short, Cairo) has made a name for herself on Danish radio and TV with the series Borgen. Her third feature is a chilling portrait of the Nordic bourgeoisie. Set in an almost perfect environment, Trine Dyrholm shimmers as an elegant working wife and mother acting out a tragedy which is as heartless as avoidable. The complex narrative is structured like a thriller: guilt, lust and power dominate the proceedings.

Anne (Dyrholm), a counsellor for abused minors, and her doctor husband Magnus (Kepper) live with their blond/blue-eyed twins Frida and Fanny (Liv and Silja Esmar Dannemann) in a fabulous modernist house surrounded by woods. But the couple are living a lie: Anne is a control freak, and Magnus too keen on his work. The twins are clearly an afterthought and make up the perfect façade, but they are emotionally neglected. Then Gustav (Lindt), Magnus’s son from his first, failed marriage, joins the household. He has been excluded from school and thrown of the house by his mother – he is a godsend for Magnus, to assuage his guilt. All goes well at the beginning, the twins are thrilled with their new brother, who gives them lots of attention and reads them bed stories. But Anne is overcome by lust for the young man, and kicks off a passionate sexual relationship with Gustav, right in the family home. But her passion does not last long; eventually her intellect takes over and she ends the relationship abruptly. On an outing with his father, Gustav tells all, and Magnus confronts Anne – who plays the innocent victim. All very convincing. Magnus actually believes his son instinctively, but fears the consequences.  And it’s easier for him to send his son away. Gustav confronts Anne at her work place, but she shuts him down with the words: ”Who will be believed, you or me?” Gustav make a last ditch attempt during the Christmas holidays. But the drawbridge is up and it all ends with a family outing, everyone dressed in black.

Gustav is by no means idealised: he is a nasty piece of work who really wants to ruin the family. But that does not alter the fact that he is a minor, and Anne has taken advantage of him. Yes, he consented, but a minor who consents is still – in the eyes of the law -a victim. Nobody knows that better than Anne. But the truth would ruin her reputation.

This is a slick and enjoyable arthouse drama complimented by its stylish visual aesthetic. Jon Ekstrand’s eerie score – a mixture of late Janacek and early Schnittke – fits perfectly in a saga of icy, calculating relationships.

Queen of Hearts is available to stream and on Prime Video

Hope (2020)

Dir: Maria Sodahl | Drama, Norway/Sweden, 122′

Tragedy proves the turning point for a woman and her long term partner in Maria Sodahl’s raw and resonant semi-autobiographical second feature starring Andrea Bræin Hovig and Stellen Skarsgard. No fireworks here just good, well-crafted storytelling.

Sodahl started her career as a casting director before turning her talents to writing and directing and this stylish film which has a way of making the morbid subject appealing and somehow full of hope, as the title suggests.

The story revolves around Anja (Hovig) who runs a dance company and has just returned from a successful international tour to spend Christmas with her extended family. A meeting with her doctor suggests a need for further investigation which reveals an inoperable brain tumour, possibly connected to the lung cancer she had overcome the previous Christmas. Anja is faced with only months to live. Stellan Skarsgard once again provides solid ballast finding new expressions for his concern, supported by the couple’s various kids and Anja’s likeable father. She gradually works her way through the trauma in a way that is compelling and full of insight, humour and courage. Maria Sodahl drew on her own life experience of the disease which she faced with her husband, Norwegian director Hans Petter Moland (Out Stealing Horses also starring Stellan Skarsgard). The couple’s grief has a transformative affect on their relationship and the ending is surprisingly moving and well thought out. MT

In CINEMAS FROM 10 DECEMBER 2021 | Berlinale Premierr

Aniara (2018) ****

Dir.: Pella Kagerman, Hugo Lilja; Cast: Emilie Jonsson, Blanca Cruzeiro, Anneli Martini, Arvin Kananian; Sweden/Denmark 2019, 106 min.

This Swedish dread-fuelled sci-fi debut feels like Solaris directed by Ingmar Bergman.

Adapted from an epic poem by Swedish Nobel prize laureate Harry Martinson Aniara is both unsettling and beautiful to look at, embued with the melancholy of its original author who committed suicide after learning that he would have to share his Nobel Prize with his countryman Eyvind Johnson (both were members of the prize giving Swedish academy). Martinson had rather a dim view of humanity: a staunch progressive, his first wife left him “because he lacked political engagement” – hardly a reason for divorce, but something that was clearly vital for the success of their marriage.

Aniara is a slow burner in many ways: having watched it, one is satisfied, but not overwhelmed. But the film stays with you, the audacity and originality dawning slowly as you cast your mind back. A space transporter ferries wealthy Earthlings from our own now uninhabitable planet to a docking station somewhere in the firmament whence they will be transported to Mars. Alas, the three week  journey is interrupted in the first few days when the Aniara, a sort of luxury mall, has to dump all its fuel to avoid a collision. The only chance of getting back on course is to locate a celestial body. Captain Chefone (Kananian) promises this for the near future but a wise, old astronomer (Martini) tells her roommate Mimaroben (Jonsson) that this will never happen. Mimaroben (or MR) is in charge of MIMA, a sentient computer system which allows humans to see viral images of the old Earth, by way of using the memories Earth-dwellers. After the astronomer is shot for “spreading panic”, MIMA shuts itself down, and MR and her lover Isagel (Cruzeiro), a pilot, are put in prison. They are released when the Ariana encounters a foreign body and Chefone hopes that the object will contain fuel. When this turns out to be wishful thinking, the space voyagers are filled with doom and gloom. Cults and anarchy reign, and Isagel becomes pregnant during a ritual. It falls to the two women to raise the child, and for a time, this nuclear family promises a sort of future.

Divided into chapters, Ariana is a slow descent into night. Visually this is a stunning endeavour and credit is due to DoP Sophie Winquist and PDs Linnea Pettersson and Maja-Stina Asberg. Instead of spending vast sums on interiors, the team make use of   local malls, office blocks and amusement parks, Winquist always finding new angles to conjure up the passengers’ sheer terror at seeing their surroundings vanishing bit by bit. The ensemble acting is really convincing, with Martini’s cynical astronomer (“I was never impressed much by humans”) outstanding. There are no monsters populating Ariana – just talented humans beings. AS       

ANIARA is released in Cinemas and on Digital HD from 30th August

Bergman: A Year in the Life (2018) ****

Dir: Jane Magnusson | Doc | Sweden | 116’

Documentarian Jane Magnusson takes a swipe at Ingmar Bergman’s memory in her sprawling in-depth documentary that marks this year’s centenary of the birth of the Swedish legend. It is an informative expose that lays bare the lesser known side of Bergman and follows on from her 2013 outing Trespassing Bergman where Martin Scorsese and Woody Allen appraised the filmmaker’s staggering oeuvre.

In this current climate of moral rectitude, your judgement of the film will be guided by whether or not you think an artist’s work should stand apart from their personal life. Predicably it emerges that Ingmar was his father’s favourite and  his brother Dag Bergman reveals other intimate details about their childhood together, including his brother’s neurosis that led to stomach pains and sleepless nights.

Opting for a thematic rather than chronological narrative allows Magnusson to zoom in on Bergman’s personality, family and the women in his life in a revealing expose of a man who seemed entirely focused on his own needs. Yet he also emerges as a director who worked closely and intensively with his actors creating female roles that were appealing as well as emotionally and intellectually challenging.

So many documentaries about Bergman have been hagiographic tributes to the national hero, and when a filmmaker reaches these heady heights it becomes difficult to be critical. Since the dawn of time, creators have been philanderers and poor parents, driven by their obsession with emotionally consuming work. Does this mean that they should be metaphorically ‘taken out and shot’ or have their work shunned and demonised?

Magnusson’s film is observational in style, cleverly focusing in on 1957, Bergman’s most prolific year as a filmmaker on television and the big screen, with the release of Wild Strawberries and the Seventh Seal, his most autonomous work. It was also the year of his involvement in four theatre productions – including the massive almost unstageable endeavour that was Peer Gynt. 1957 heralded the arrival of his sixth child, with wife Gun Grut, and romances leading to marriage with Käbi Laretei and Ingrid von Rosen, including an affair with actor Bibi Andersson, who starred in the year’s two films.

Enriched by a wealth of personal photos and footage, there are informative talking heads from the world of film, theatre and literature making this a definitive and ambitious piece of work that reveals a complicated but endearing genius, despite its provocative stance. MT

ON RELEASE FROM 29 JANUARY 2019

Copyright © 2022 Filmuforia