The Wife (2018)

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Directed by Bjorn Runge
Country: Sweden / UK / other

Bjorn Runge’s The Wife is a mature, if reserved drama that evolves at a steady pace without that dramatic punch that would make it memorable. Jane Anderson (It Could Happen To You) wrote it based on the 2003 novel of the same name by Meg Wolitzer, in a fair attempt to describe a few acerbic days in the life of an American couple shaded by a public lie and a mix of sacrifice, ego, and surreptitious resentment.

Joan Archer (Glenn Close) is a gifted writer discouraged by the prejudice of the editors against women. She has been dedicating all her life to her husband and former teacher, Joe Castleman (Jonathan Pryce), whose success depends exclusively on her skills. John is informed by phone that he is the new Nobel Prize in Literature. While he celebrates effusively like a child, she acts far more reserved and slightly distant, seeming a bit disturbed with the communication.

Through flashbacks, we learn the shocking truth. She was, in fact, the true author of all his novels. The narcissistic Joe becomes overwhelmed with the success, whereas Joan, devastated inside, tries to deal with the unbearable pain of living in the shadow for so many years. The couple heads to Stockholm, where the Nobel Prize ceremony takes place, accompanied by their son David (Max Irons), who also aspires to be a writer.

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Once there, things quickly become a nightmare with Joe flirting with a young photographer, and Joan being troubled by Nathaniel Bone (Christian Slater), an impertinent biographer who suspects she is the real talent of the household.

Despite the potentiality, this embittered love tale and domestic drama film never exploded because neither of its characters exploded when they needed and were supposed to. In a number of times, I wished the story were tempered with a bit more sarcasm. Showing some tackiness in the maneuvers, the Swedish director only gets the film flowing because of the mesmeric leading performances. Ms. Close, in particular, a six-time Academy Award-nominated actress, is irreproachable in the role of an emotionally hurt giver who refuses to play the supportive wife any longer. It is thanks to her that The Wife remains fairly acceptable.

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Border (2018)

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Directed by Ali Abbasi
Country: Sweden

The Swedish fantasy thriller “Border” is the sophomore feature from Ali Abbasi, who improved considerably in terms of thrills and tone when compared with his debut “Shelley”. After learning that the script had the stamp of John Ajvide Lindqvist on it - he authored the acclaimed vampire tale “Let The Right One In” - my expectations went high and, in fact, were never defrauded as I dug this noir fairytale drenched in Nordic folklore and delicious suspense.

The story's protagonist is Tina (Eva Melander), a singular customs officer with an uncommon chromosome flaw, rigid posture, and unfriendly face, who has the special ability to sniff trouble in the passers-by. Her infallible sense of smell can detect things like alcohol, drugs, weapons, and even SD cards with child pornography, as well as inner feelings like shame, guilt, and rage. She does this with such accuracy that, occasionally, the authorities seek her services to solve major criminal cases. The probability of failure while performing her task is tiny, however, she is challenged for the very first time when Vore (Eero Milonoff), a mysterious man with a weird obsession with maggots, is selected for inspection. She knows he hides something impure, but their instant physical chemistry turned into visceral, animal-like passion, made her lenient. Both have a lot in common, and not only physical. They have a strong, strange connection to nature and animals.

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The somber side of Vore is gradually exposed after he accepts Tina’s suggestion to move into her guest house, a situation that bothers her parasitical boyfriend, Roland (Jörgen Thorsson), a Rottweilers enthusiast. Tina’s greatest difficulty, besides accepting her own nature and realizing that, like Vore, she is not a creature of this world, was to understand the lies that populate her ‘human’ past.

While the talented director keeps the things flowing with the appropriate amount of tension, the lead actors respond with absolute brilliance. Well anchored in its unique conception, “Border” can be tender and liberating, furious and disgusting, and even polemic in its vision of decaying humankind. In this case, and for its arresting visuals and compelling narrative, it’s easy to conclude that this is no minor work.

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The Square (2017)

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Directed by Ruben Ostlund
Country: Sweden / other

Swedish director Ruben Ostlund bows to ambition in “The Square”, a satirical drama put together with exquisite shots and packed with characters whose incredible behaviors range from comical to earnest to contrived, and sometimes a combination of those. Even with his filmmaking style transfigured for this work, Ostlund didn’t achieve the emotional fierceness of his first couple of dramas, “Involuntary” and “Play”, as well as the objectivity of his latest “Force Majeure”.

Nonetheless, the big winner of Cannes has been conquering many fans with a semi-articulate fusion of deadpan humor, weirdness, and unexpectedness while focusing on themes such as global tolerance and responsiveness toward others, guilt and honor, ego and defeat, and both the influence and the potential dangers of the communication in general, and the social media in particular.

Deploying clean, Nordic-style visuals, Ostlund attempts to examine modern life in our days, with all the personal, professional, and technological implications associated with a civilized community. However, over the course of its drifting 2.5 hours, the film embraces a few outlandish situations that keep oscillating between morally disturbing and irreverently ludicrous. It’s like finding an intersection point between the social mordancy of Roy Andersson's comedy-dramas and the lightest version of Quentin Dupioux’s absurdities. 

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The story was partly inspired by an authentic art installation that both the filmmaker and the renowned producer, Kalle Bolman, had made, and develops into the multiple crises in the life of Christian (Claes Bang), the hypocrite chief curator of a major Swedish art museum. When not working on the publicity of a brand new installation entitled ‘The Square’, a piece described as ‘a sanctuary of trust and caring where, within it, we all share equal rights and obligations’, Christian is taking care of his two daughters or is attempting to locate his stolen cell phone with the help of a geeky employee or is having hot if casual sex with Anne (Elisabeth Moss), a weird interviewer who lives with a chimpanzee and insists on collecting the man's condom after having fun. Among a few unexpected scenes, including a man with Tourette's syndrome disturbing an interview and a terrified woman screaming for help in the middle of the street, there is one that deserves to be highlighted, involving an extremist performance artist named Oleg (Terry Notary) who, pretending to be a wild ape, actually attacks people during a museum’s meeting.

Regardless its long duration and wacky side, there are genius moves and several engrossing parts in “The Square”, a film that pushes boundaries by infusing lifelike sequences occasionally peppered with surreal allure.

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Sami Blood (2017)

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Directed by Amanda Kernell
Country: Sweden / Denmark / Norway

This idyllic yet emotionally powerful international co-production between Sweden, Denmark, and Norway, follows the drama of a Lappish woman who gladly left her nomadic family behind, neglecting her origins in favor of the more intellectual and cosmopolitan life she envisioned for herself. The viewer has the chance to observe a zealous ambition turning into a tenacious battle against Nordic prejudice.

Anne-Marja (Maj-Doris Rimpi) is a stubborn, never-smiling 78-year-old woman who changed her name many years ago to Christina. The combination of wrinkled skin with a permanently severe look lets us guess she had a tough life in her youth days. We find her heading to Lapland for her sister’s Sami funeral in the company of her son and granddaughter.

Boycotting any possible contact with the locals and isolating herself in a hotel room after refusing to acknowledge her sister, Anne-Marja recalls a tumultuous past, letting us know how she abandoned the Great Northern Mountain, her mother - a reindeer herder, her fragile sister, and the rural smell of the Lapps in order to become a teacher in Uppsala.
 
The narrative winds back to the 30s when Anne-Marja, 14 (now brilliantly played by Lene Cecilia Sparrok), and her younger sister Njenna (Mia Sparrok), were temporarily sent to a boarding school for Sami children in the South. While the former, a bright student who already spoke fluent Swedish at that time, showed a strong will to become independent and successful, the latter, perceivably different in nature, was yearning and counting the days to go back to her family.

Even owning a monumental intelligence, things didn’t go smoothly for Anne-Marja since the Sami people were considered inferior and prevented from attending better schools to proceed their studies. Trying to hide her true identity by adopting the name of her schoolteacher, she runs away from school but finds prejudice and humiliation everywhere, even when she mistakenly thought that Niklas (Julius Fleischanderl), an Uppsala boy she fell for, would become an ally.

Seamlessly written and compellingly directed by Amanda Kernell, who causes a very much positive impression in her debut feature, “Sami Blood” is a tale of rebellion, ambition, perseverance, and forgiveness, told with a Scandinavian tranquility and sustained by a top-quality performance by the young newcomer Lene Cecilia Sparrok.

The endearing images – photography is by Sophia Olsson – bestow a picturesque charm and compositional rigor while the script was developed directly from Kernell’s 2015 short film “Northern Great Mountain”, which was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance. The irresistible “Sami Blood” did even better by winning the Label Europa Cinemas prize and best debutant director at Venice, the Human Values Award at Thessaloniki, and The Best Nordic Film prize at Goteborg Film Festival.

I can't deny having a certain curiosity about Kernell's next move, as well as where the young Lene can go after this first fulfillment.

A Man Called Ove (2016)

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Directed by Hannes Holm
Country: Sweden

It doesn’t surprise me that “A Man Called Ove”, a Swedish comedy-drama written and directed by Hannes Holm and based on the novel of the same name by Fredrik Backman, has successfully targeted the audiences. The director has found this upbeat facility in conquering them with a story simultaneously touching, funny, and heartwarming.
 
It’s almost impossible not to be intrigued by Ove – a bossy, grumpy, obsessively righteous, and deliberately offensive widower who fights anyone disobeying the rules created for the neighborhood he lives in. The more we know about his past, the more we get fond of him, excusing his rude conducts and understanding his reluctance to help others.

When we take a quick glance at the 56-year-old Ove, immaculately played by Rolf Lassgard (“Under the Sun”, “After the Wedding”), he reminds us Michael Caine. With him, honesty, responsibility, and duty come always first, no matter what. We follow him on his morning rounds, learning he doesn’t tolerate pets, children’s toys left in the playground, and especially cars circulating on the pathway.
After being fired from the railroad company where he worked for 43 years, Ove seems madder and grumpier than ever. He can’t stand anybody and nobody can stand him.

With no more plans for life and willing to join his beloved wife in heaven, Ove, dressed up in a blue suit, decides to hang himself in his living room. However, in every attempt, he ends up reverting the decision. Firstly, the one to blame is Parvaneh (Bahar Pars), an Iranian mother who moved into the house across the street with her husband Patrick (Tobias Almborg) and their two daughters. Then it was a journalist who wanted to write about him, and after that, his wife’s former student. 

With the time, Ove’s heart gradually softens in every sense. He starts considering Pervaneh and her daughters as his own family and even adopts a stray cat that was dying of cold outside.
It’s gratifying to see how his lonely eyes sparkle when Parvaneh is around, how he obeys her when she calls him to reason, or how he’s disarmed with a smile of his adoptive granddaughters.

Cleverly mixing drama and comedy, and heavily relying on attractive visuals and competent performances, the film is a balm in terms of tolerance, a lacking virtue nowadays.
It’s undeniable that everything in the feel-good “A Man Called Ove” was neatly arranged to please. However, its charm and message make us forget the originality it wasn’t capable of showing.

A Pigeon Sat on a Brach Reflecting on Existence (2014)

A Pigeon Sat on a Brach Reflecting on Existence (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Roy Andersson
Country: Sweden

Movie Review: From Sweden, comes the last part of Roy Andersson’s trilogy about being a human being, carrying the emphatic title “A Pigeon Sat on a Brunch Reflecting on Existence”. It’s excused to say that this is not a film for everyone since its oddness and twisted humor can be a delight for some viewers and a horrible experience for others. Anderson continues relying on the absurdity of the situations created, often resorting in the repetition of ideas to become funny – the sentence ‘I’m happy to hear you’re doing fine’ is a good example. To be honest, “A Pigeon” didn’t always work fine for me, at least not as much as the two prior parts of the trilogy, the sensationally absorbing “Songs From the Second Floor” and “You, The Living”. The plot, loosely inspired on Vittorio de Sica’s “Bicycle Thieves” (who could guess?), tells the adventures of Sam (Nils Westblom) and Jonathan (Holger Andersson), two depressed salesmen who embark on a crazy trip where reality and fantasy get together. The eccentricities, a staple on Andersson’s filmmaking, have a good impact until a certain point, but after four or five incursions, they start losing the strength we were supposed to expect. There is an undoubted notion that we’re not before real-life episodes since a considerable amount of scenes end up seeming more theatrical than bizarre. However, and far from wanting to let the film down with what it has been said, the film also presents favorable aspects such as terrific visual compositions in tones of pale, a great casting, amusingly offbeat situations, and a constant tragicomic provocation in its approach. Unclassifiable, intriguing, and dauntless, Roy Andersson’s third reflection on existence is certainly not his best, but even fragmented, doesn’t embarrass the incomparable identity of a great filmmaker who philosophically ridicules about humanity. Still very virtuous, but I wanted to like it a bit more…

Force Majeure (2014)

Force Majeure (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Ruben Ostlund
Country: Sweden / France / others

Movie Review: Ruben Ostlund is one of the most, if not the most, interesting Swedish writers/filmmakers of our times. Great dramas, such as “Involuntary” and “Play”, made him a solid reference of contemporary Swedish cinema. His new comedy drama, “Force Majeure”, is another motive for us to have him in high esteem, even considering that this one wasn’t so incisive as the two mentioned above. The film involve us in its sensational start but as it moves towards the end, loses itself in forced situations that could have been handled differently. A Swedish family on vacation is caught up in an avalanche while having lunch at an Alpine restaurant. Tomas, the husband, runs away in a sudden impulse, abandoning his wife, Ebba, and two children to their own fate. This microsecond decision will deeply change the couple’s relationship during their six days in the mountains where the family seems to start breaking apart. Ostlund creates a challenging perspective on how people see and react in a particular frightening situation, bringing up more stuff than needed to the question, especially in the last part of the film. The amazing tension and emotional expressions created, especially during the dinners with friends, denoted some influence of Bergman, while the exaggerated drama of Tomas’ final confession was a bit of a letdown. I should say that Ostlund was incapable to find the best resolutions for the genuine situations generated. Nevertheless, and as a challenging piece of entertainment, “Force Majeure” is recommended, with all its mordacious exposures.

The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out The Window and Disappeared (2013)

The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out The Window and Disappeared (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Felix Herngren
Country: Sweden

Movie Review: The Swedish comedy “The 100-Year-Old Man…” is a feel-good movie adapted from Jonas Jonasson’s best-selling novel. The third feature film directed by the actor Felix Herngren, wins points with the jokes and dark humor but also loses some with the absurd number of coincidences of a scatterbrained plot. We follow Allan Karlsson in the day he turns 100 and decided to run away from the nursing home where he lives, involving himself in a dangerous adventure with an international gang, in the company of his recent friends. Simultaneously, we dive into Allan’s rich past to know he was discouraged as a child to think about the problems of the world. Orphan since an early age, he lived all his life as a bon-vivant, drinking, eating, and exploding whatever he could – a passion that took him worldwide, allowing him to have amiable relations with several top personalities such as Franco during the Spanish civil war, Truman during the Manhattan project, the French government for which he worked as a spy, and even Stalin who gave him a hard time in a Siberian gulag. Very bold and athletic for his age, the forgetful Allan evinces a political ingenuity, insensibility regarding the others, and an unawareness of danger that is really funny. This adventurous and eventful comedy knew exactly where it wanted to go, but I believe that with a little more cleverness in the screenwriting, and suppressing some strained aspects, it would have become less messy and more distinctive. Even with all its faults, it still provides a few good laughs, entertaining us with its inconceivable life story.

The Reunion (2013)

The Reunion (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Anna Odell
Country: Sweden

Movie Review: “The Reunion” marks the directorial debut by the controversial Swedish artist Anna Odell, known for having been charged by prosecutors in Stockholm 2009, in the sequence of a fake suicide attempt made for a final art project while student. The idea for this film came up when Odell wasn’t invited to her High School class reunion party. With a bold structure and adequate acting, Odell crosses the frontiers between documentary and fiction, breaking the film into two different parts – ‘the speech’ and ‘the meetings’. In the first part she decides to create a film of what the party could have been if she had been invited, featuring a lot of tense moments with the former colleagues of high hierarchies, cheerless recalls from the past, verbal confrontation and even physical violence. The second part, Anna decides to meet with some of them to show them the film and know their opinion. The goal is to unmask and ridicule those who always ignored her due to their status, bullied and tricked her, or were false friends. Some of them showed to be constrained, others showed to be inveterate liars, and some others just demonstrate they never grew up. Odell’s little revenge took an artistic form – the cinema itself, but is visible a restrained fury in her eyes and an enormous pleasure to confront her ‘little friends’ with the truth. “The Reunion” adopts the same Scandinavian weightiness of Thomas Vinterberg’s “The Celebration”, bringing into question how the human integrity can be affected due to certain behaviors.

We Are the Best (2013)

We Are the Best (2013)
Directed by: Lukas Moodyson
Country: Sweden

Movie Review: Plenty of attitude can be found in Lukas Moodyson’s seventh feature film, which tells the story of two 13 year-old girls who, in 1982 Stokholm, believe punk’s not dead and embark in their dream of forming a band. With a fragile aspect and disillusioned with their families, Bobo and Klara exhibit uncommon haircuts and adopt a rebel posture, not caring a bit with the sarcastic commentaries of their colleagues. Having big problems with sports, they decide to call “hate sports” to their first song, but as beginners, they realize that learning some more music is fundamental. After seeing Hedvig playing classical guitar at school’s fall concert, they decide to invite her for their band, trying to dissuade her to believe in God and converting her to punk music. Most of the situations are funny, but drama and jealous will also arise when Klara and Bobo involve themselves with Elis, a member of another reputed teen punk band. With their friendship in jeopardy, and the first live appearance scheduled for Vasteras, will they get over the situation? Evincing a tireless energy, the viewer can sense that pretty much is going on in the life of these young girls, and those things are far beyond studying. The urge to be different, strong personalities, and support from the families, were positive aspects to take into account, but there were others not so positive (but plausible), such as too much freedom and preconceived ideas. Moodyson returns to interesting scripts, effectively mixing the harshness of punk with the sweetness of these three little friends.

Play (2011)

Direcetd by: Ruben Ostlund
Country: Sweden

Plot: An astute observation based on real cases of bullying, occurred in central Gothenburg, Sweden.
Review: “Play” has a lot to say. Bullying is a very debated problem nowadays but certainly is very far away from being solved. After “Involuntary”, Ruben Ostlund returns to juvenile problem’s theme, being very objective in its message. This film is far more comprehensive than just bullying in Sweden. Different classes, inattentive parents, immigration problems, how the society faces this issue and trauma are some of the topics. Smart and sharp movie, with wonderful performances by all actors and a confident direction, “Play” happens to be a notable critical look to a specific problem and to society itself.
Relevant awards: Jury prize (Dublin); best director (Tokyo and Gijón); audience award (Tromso).

Avalon (2011)

Directed by: Axel Petersen
Country: Sweden

Plot: Janne, a 60 year old party promoter is arranging a nightclub at the annual tennis week in the small coastal town of Bastad...
Quick comment: A look at the Swedish underworld is what Alex Petersen has to offer in his first feature film. We are before some interesting character studies in a very dark tale. In some moments we can really feel the strength and potentiality of this story. In others, we are convinced that it could have been better explored. Deliberately or not, everything on this movie was unemotional, which makes the viewer to keep some distance from what’s happening. However, the boldness showed in direction has sharpened my curiosity about Peterson’s future works.
Relevant awards: Discovery Prize (Toronto).

Beyond (2010)

Realizado por: Pernilla August
País: Suécia
Pernilla August estreia-se na realização, após ter tido a "escola" toda com alguns mestres suecos, como Ingmar Bergman, com quem participou como actriz em "fanny and alexander", ou Bille August em "the best intentions". "Beyond" para filme de estreia ficou acima das expectativas. A realização é boa, a história fortíssima e as interpretações convincentes, tornando-o num daqueles "dramalhões" que é impossível ficar-se indiferente. Um filme tocante sobre um trauma de infância e as marcas profundas que deixou para a vida, faz-nos pensar que infelizmente para muita gente este filme corresponderá à realidade. Premiado em Veneza, São Paulo, Hamburgo, Lubeck e Suécia.

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest (2009)

Realizado por: Daniel Alfredson
País: Suécia

Última parte da trilogia Millenium, baseada na obra literária de Stieg Larsson. Apesar de "the girl with the dragon tattoo" ser o filme mais badalado e estar a ser alvo de um remake americano pelo realizador David Fincher, achei que esta última parte encontra-se ao mesmo nível do outro. O enredo até corria bem, mas no último terço, o "caldo" é entornado com o acerto de contas feito pela cyber-punk Lisbeth Salander, a deixar muito a desejar e a acabar com a questão de forma a despachar a coisa. Resumindo: acompanha-se bem, mas sem grandes níveis de entusiasmo.

Involuntary (2008)

Realizado por: Ruben Ostlund
País: Suécia

Cinco histórias em paralelo são apresentadas através de diversas personagens (adolescentes e adultos). Um olhar mais ao pormenor sobre comportamentos fora do normal, mostra-nos que as "liberdades" de cada um, quando não enquadradas nas normas da sociedade em que vivemos, têm as suas consequências. No fundo trata-se de um filme contemporâneo, sobre o "passar dos limites", retratando não apenas o que se passa na sociedade sueca, mas também um pouco por toda a parte.
Filme galardoado nos Festivais de Estocolmo, Mar del Plata, Bruxelas, Geneva, Milão e Miami.

Everlasting Moments (2008)

Realizado por: Jan Troell
País: Suécia

O filme aborda os dias difíceis de Maria Larsson no início do século XX, uma das primeiras fotógrafas a serem reconhecidas. Após ganhar uma câmara fotográfica numa lotaria e apesar de possuir um dom para apanhar as realidades do mundo através desta, Maria não vai ter uma vida facilitada ao ter de lidar com o seu marido alcoólico, infiel e violento, seis filhos para criar e ainda uma paixão por um fotógrafo de estúdio. Com bom gosto e requinte, é mais um belíssimo filme de Jan Troell, para juntar à obra-prima "The Emigrants"(1971).

Let the Right One In (2008)


Realizado por: Tomas Alfredson
País: Suécia

Eli, uma estranha rapariga que não suporta a luz do sol e se alimenta de sangue, faz amizade com Oskar, um jovem vítima de bullying. Para o solitário Oskar, ela é a única pessoa que o faz sentir bem. Mas ao descobrir a verdade sobre Eli, o medo vai inevitávelmente misturar-se com a amizade. Sem ser um filme de terror no verdadeiro sentido da palavra, chega a impressionar pela frieza com que nos é apresentado.
O título tem a ver com o facto de que os vampiros para poderem entrar numa casa, terem de ser convidados a tal.
O frio sueco quase nos entra pela janela...de mansinho e sem pedir autorização.