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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

Ex Machina

Drama Posted on 2015-02-07 13:58:12

ScAI-fAI by Alex Garland, USA 2014

Caleb is a young programmer at the world’s largest search engine company. One day he wins a staff lottery and gets to visit his mysterious boss at his recluse estate way off in the wilderness. Once there, it turns out that he’s to perform a Turing test on the enigmatic entrepreneur’s latest creation: a fully functional AI.

As sci-fi goes, ‘Ex machina’ is somewhat bottle episodey, which can be a good thing. The main actors do tremendous jobs, in particular Oscar Isaac as the arrogant, yet likeable arsehole he’s prone to portray and Sweden’s own Alicia Vikander as the AI robot Ava. The interaction between tester and subject gets ever more tense, and something doesn’t feel right, neither for Caleb, nor the audience. I had expected a plot twist or two, and I had already patted myself on the back for figuring it out right from the beginning. But sometimes looks can be deceiving, and sometimes deceiving can be deceiving, as well.

Bechdel test: fail

4 bytes of 6


Drama Posted on 2015-02-07 13:55:57

Suicidemo by Jeppe Rønde, Denmark 2015

In the small Welsh town of Bridgend, a series of mysterious suicides has been occurring since a few years back. A former citizen, now a policeman, returns with his teenage daughter to investigate. Meanwhile, the daughter teams up with a gang of juvenile delinquents, and the suicides continue, but now it gets all too personal for both dad and daughter.

With skillful use of camera, lights (or lack thereof) and haunting music, with the overcast, gray autumn scenery furthering the bleakness, debut director Rønde tells the based-on-true-events tale with little to no humour. It’s all gray, dull, depressing and bleak. Unfortunately, the depictions of teenage angst is more akin to what adults think it’s like, rather than how teens actually behave. Some of the teens are played by themselves, with no acting experience, and it shows. Nevertheless, it’s a gripping tale, but the unrelatability of the characters makes it hard to invest fully. A nice first effort, though.

Bechdel test: Pass

3 skinny-dips of 6

Futatsume no mado (Still the water)

Drama Posted on 2015-02-06 20:19:38

Teenangstdrama by Naomi Kawase, Japan 2014

On a remote island in the Japanese archipelago, a teenage boy finds a dead body flushed ashore after a heavy storm. The tragedy leads him to deal with his angst regarding his parents’ separation, but also helps him connect with a girl from school, who suffers from sadness due to her mother’s terminal illness.

Beautiful and sad, ‘Still the water’ tells a tale of growing up, but rather unevenly so. It varies between engaging moments and tedious, between clever storytelling and unnecessary. With the potential to be a great film, ‘Still the water’ misses the mark somewhat.

Bechdel test: Fail

3 tattoos of 6

Ngoui truyen giong (The inseminator)

Drama Posted on 2015-02-06 20:17:33

Seedstory by Kim Quy Bui, Vietnam 2014

In an isolated forest in the Vietnamese countryside lives a man with his unwed daughter and mentally different son. Obsessed with keeping his bloodline, he tries to get his son to be able to plant his seed in a wife provided for him. Such is not easy to purchase, but in his own household he finds the solution.

Excellent cinematography.

Bechdel test: fail

1 red doll of 6

Geo-jin-mal (The Liar)

Drama Posted on 2015-01-28 23:55:13

Fakedrama by Dong-myung Kim, South Korea, 2014

Ayoung lives a rather miserable life, with an alcoholic sister, an estranged mother and a dead-end job. Yet she puts up a facade of being successful, checking out luxury apartments, lying about her rich boyfriend and generally being deceitful, mostly towards herself. The ever-downwards spiral is bound to catch up with her, though.

I get that the main character feels the need to lie; being successful is important, especially in this day and age, and especially in urban environments. She never ever benefits, however, and thus she never really comes crashing down. Instead it’s a bit of a slow descent, so slow that it’s almost a status quo, and as such, the story never really grips.

Bechdel test: Pass

2 fridges of 6

52 Tuesdays

Drama Posted on 2015-01-25 20:57:58

Correctiondrama by Sophie Hyde, Australia, 2013

Billie’s mum is a man born in a woman’s body, and eventually he realizes that, and decides to have corrections. During such turbulent times, it’d decided that Billie goes to live with her dad, only seeing her mum every Tuesday for the next year. At the same time, Billie goes through changes of her own, as one is wont to do in one’s late teens.

Both Tilda Cobham-Hervey as Billie and Del Herbert-Jane as Jane/James are brilliant in their leading roles. The transitions parallelled between child and parent are intrigueing and gripping without being melodramatic or judgy. The oft used trope of having an observer doing talking heads sessions as a framing device for the flashbacks seems cliché at first, but it’s not exactly what it seems. Heartwarming, dramatic, realistic, humourous and very well executed.

Bechdel test: Pass

5 haircuts of 6

Zagreb Cappucino

Drama Posted on 2015-01-25 20:52:36

Midagesolution by Vanja Svilicic, Croatia 2014

Petra is recently divorced, and lives in a fancy apartment in Zagreb, which she keeps meticulously clean. When her old friend Kika comes for a longer stay, she begins living life, for all its ups and down.

It’s all pretty straight forward: Petra’s ennui becomes lessened through the exploits of her more extrovert friend, yet boozing, drinking cappuccinos and having one night stands can only take you so far towards happiness. It’s the friendship between the two 40+ women, and the fact that Kika isn’t as joyous as it seems that give the film some semblance of substance.

Bechdel test: pass

3 cups of 6


Drama Posted on 2015-01-25 01:19:41

Suicidrama by Daniel Barnz, USA 2014

Claire is in serious physical pain after a car accident, and in even deeper mental pain due to the loss of her son and the consequent failure of her marriage. When one of the women in her support group commits suicide, her life may just take a turn for the even worse.

Eventually, rom-com leading ladies seem to take on more serious roles, often as somewhat broken women. After Meg and Sandra it’s now Jennifer Aniston’s turn. Although she plays the part impressively low-key, and the drama keeps getting still more dramatic in a gripping way, the film suffers from repeated clichés and predictability. Not everything is by strict formula, though. Some details work well, and the fact that the introduction of a handsome younger man doesn’t lead to hugs and puppies is refreshing. A bit too drawn-out for my taste, but the acting, especially from Aniston and Felicity Huffman adds a notch.

Bechdel test: Pass

3 pools of 6

Men, women and children

Drama Posted on 2015-01-25 01:13:33

Connectivitydrama by Jason Reitman, USA 2014

In today’s constantly connected society, the youth seem incapable of human interaction, preferring online chats and texting. The implications of putting all sorts of details on the internet raises red flags for some parents, alienation for others and a sense of becoming blasé for yet others.

With gorgeous footage of the Voyager traversing through our solar system and narration provided by the incomparable Emma Thompson, the film sets the mood as a pretentious, yet tounge-in-cheeky black comedy, and so it remains for the first third, before turning more into drama. The classic high school stock characters are present: the bitchy cheerleader, the arsehole jock, the sensitive guy who no longer wants to be a jock, the alternative girl…. But it’s all about their lack of communication and their parent’s lack of understanding. Scariest would be Jennifer Garner’s big brothery overprotective mum, logging and blocking all her daughter’s internet and mobile communication. However, Judy Greer as the failed actress desperately using her attention seeking daughter to make up for her lost dreams is as sad, but on the other side of the spectrum. A visually pleasing film that would be more enjoyable had they kept the dark comedy throughout.

Bechdel test: Pass

4 avatars of 6