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Filmfestivalen 2015

Release the Draken!

I'm a bit concerned. For the last gazillion years, or at least twelve, I have been volunteering at Göteborg Filmfestival, working alongside the awesomest people at the best picture house in all the land, leaving me free to watch as many films as possible at my leisure. As such, I didn't need to plan so much ahead and buy tickets, I could just watch any film that happened to be the talk of the town at a whim. This year, however, I attend the movie extravaganza as a regular Joe, wielding tickets and all. It will feel different, but I just know, once I sink down in those comfy chairs, that the screen will, as it always does, take me away to far off places, to meet interesting, lovely, sordid, boring and hilarious people. And experience films I will, wielding tickets and all.


Vonarstræti (Life in a fishbowl)

Drama Posted on 2015-02-09 20:55:13

Relationsdrama by Baldvin Z, Iceland 2014

In three more and more intertwined stories, the struggles of three Reykjavik citizens just as the Icelandic economic collapse begins are depicted: An author, critically acclaimed but from a broken home and with alcohol problems, a young single mother, forced to make ends meet through prostitution and a former football star, making a career in banking after an injury ended his sports career.

Icelandic films are often gritty, melancholic and in various degrees of depressing. Life in a fishbowl is no different, but it manages the fine balance-act of melodrama: being sad and touching, without radiating hopelessness. The unlikely friendship between the down-and-out author and the naïve, yet seasoned mother is a heartwarming, as well as heart-shattering one. The lives depicted move the audience, drag them in, and one is left with the feeling of being a part of someone else’s life, just for a bit. That is in no small part thanks to Hera Hilmar’s amazing portrayal of the emotionally ambivalent Eik, and I expect great things from her in the future.
A film that, in a way, symbolizes the festival as a whole: aside from the many documentaries I saw, it has been very drama-laden, with few chuckles, and far between. ‘Life in a fishbowl’ ends the festival on a high note, albeit in a minor key.

Bechdel test: Pass

5 daughters of 6

Charlie’s country

Drama Posted on 2015-02-09 20:52:12

Alienation by Rolf de Heer, Australia 2013

In Northern Territories special laws apply to the indigenous people regarding, amongst others, hunting, weapons and alcohol. Charlie is an old man, having grown up in the traditional ways. He has grown weary of living the forced lifestyle of the white man, and decides to go live off the nature. It’s not easy, though, for an old man with failing health.

The cooperation between director de Heer and actor David Gulpilil has resulted in many films depicting the situation for the aboriginals. They’re often worthwhile, always serious and Charlie’s country is no exception. It’s not overly sentimental, and Gulpilil’s acting is subtle and spot on. It’s lacking a bit in the plot department, and the portrayals of the white cops are kind of one-dimensional, but all in all worth a watch.

Bechdel test: fail

3 dances of 6

Still Alice

Drama Posted on 2015-02-09 20:50:19

Lackmemoir by Richard Glatzer, Wash Westmoreland, USA 2014

Alice is a successful linguist and professor at Columbia. She’s happily married, with grown-up children and feel proud of her intellect. So, when she starts forgetting words and details, she fears the worst. Soon she has to struggle with Alzheimer’s disease, and the former academic has a hard time doing so.

Julianne Moore is perfect in the lead. She’s the main reason ‘Still Alice’ is gripping rather than sentimental. The scene where she records a video message to her future self is very poignant, and the little hints of slipping cognitive capacity are subtle and well executed. The supporting cast doesn’t quite match Moore’s stellar performance, and at times it gets a bit oscar-baity. That doesn’t stop the film from being worth watching, though.

Bechdel test: pass

4 froghurts of 6

Risttuules (In the crosswinds)

Drama Posted on 2015-02-09 20:48:18

Incarcerationinstallation by Martti Helde, Estonia 2014

During the Stalinist regime in the early 1940’s, tens of thousands of Estonians, Latvians and Lithuanians were imprisoned and sent to work camps in Siberia in an ethnic cleansing. In the crosswinds tells the story of one Estonian women, with basis in letters she sent to her husband.

It’s incredibly beautiful cinematography. Black and white still life, perfectly capturing the despair. No lines are spoken, just a single voice-over reading the touching letters. It’s of course very glum, which makes it effective and powerful, though perhaps too slow and solemn. It’s really more of a piece of art, an installation if you will, than a film.

Bechdel test: fail

4 bottles of milk of 6

Poutine pour toujours? (Putin is back)

Documentary Posted on 2015-02-09 20:46:43

Despotentary by Jean Michel Carré, France 2014

Putin has been the de facto leader of Russia since 2000, first as president for the, according to the constitution, maximum of two terms, then as the prime minister, ruling the country through his puppet president Medvedev. By 2012, he dropped all pretenses and outright screwed the constitution, fashioning himself president again. With increasing despotism and totalitarian measures, the charismatically frightening megalomaniac continues to steer Russia back to the powerful empire it once was.

As documentaries go, this one is pretty straightforward; chronologically told, through narration and archive footage, with no innovative tricks at all. However, the tone is coloured by a sense of black humour, which functions well with the subject at hand. I mean, with a man like Putin, should one shiver in fear or laugh derisively? I prefer the latter, and wouldn’t mind if ‘Poutine pour toujours?’ had even more sarcasm and satire.

Bechdel test: fail

3 terms of 6

Kraftidioten (In order of disappearance)

Comedy Posted on 2015-02-09 20:44:33

Gangstercomedy by Hans Petter Moland, Norway 2014

In the icy north of Norway lives a law-abiding entrepreneur, taking care of plowing the roads. However, not too far from the picturesque little village lies a larger town, which happens to be the hub for cocaine smuggling. The gangsters running the business don’t take kindly to couriers and pushers stealing the blow, and even Ingvar, the plow-king’s son, who didn’t know that his one-time job was cocaine related gets offed. Upon finding out what has happened, the plow man sets out on a tour of revenge, involving both the Norwegian mafia and their Serbian rivals.

It starts as a regular drug and gangster film, albeit in a fairly uncommon setting. As it progresses, it moves more towards dark comedy territory, with gruesome deaths, gay gangsters and an over the top jerk for a mob boss. It would have helped going even further; as it stands, it’s somewhere halfway between mob film played straight and black parody, which makes the film watchable, but not great.

Bechdel test: fail

3 parasails of 6