It’s that time of year again! The Scandinavian Film Festival has returned to Perth to quench any cultural cravings you may be experiencing during the gap between seasons of Travis Fimmel‘s Vikings. Here’s a sample of what’s on offer!
Roland Emmerich eat your heart out; Roar Uthaug’s The Wave takes the cake for heart-pounding disaster spectacle.
⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
The Wave is a Norwegian disaster movie that sees an idyllic tourist village devastated by a vicious tidal wave. It follows geologist Kristian (Kristoffer Joner), his wife Idun (Ane Dahl Torp) and their two children as they battle through the fallout of the catastrophe.
Roar Uthaug’s film follows a fairly conventional narrative that you’ve likely witnessed before, but unlike the overblown disaster porn that we see from the likes of Roland Emmerich, The Wave narrows its focus to a single town nestled at the end of a single picturesque fjord. It’s not the San Andreas fault that threatens to sink the entire California coast, but rather a towering mountain that looms menacingly above the livelihoods of just a few thousand people – and the film feels suitably personal and gripping as a result.
What immediately grabs you about The Wave is the sheer ambition of the production and the enormity of what the filmmakers have achieved. The visual effects are staggeringly polished considering the comparatively small budget; we’re talking blockbuster VFX on just a fraction of the cost.
After that, nothing quite excites to the same degree; we follow the family through the aftermath, but the film doesn’t come close to matching the brilliance of that heart-pounding fifteen-minute sequence that sees the roaring flood draw nearer to the tranquil Nordic inlet – it’s practically worth the price of admission in itself.
The Wave screens at Cinema Paradiso July 26
Måns Månsson drags us down to the depths of despair and threatens to leave us there.
Måns Månsson’s The Yard is a mirthless (and merciless) deconstruction of what it means to be poor. It pounds away so persistently at hope and happiness that I wonder if the cast and crew stopped during filming to console one another. Yes, times can be tough. We all know this. But what Månsson tries to do here is capture a lifetime of depravity in the span of eighty minutes. Someone, somewhere, is bound to crack.
11811 (Anders Mossling) is a mediocre poet. After criticising his own book, he is fired by his publisher and sent to work at the local shipyard as what I can only surmise is a car inspection agent (he is known as 11811, his identification number). This shipyard is a jolly place. Racism thrives. Discrimination is as rampant as fraternity hazing. The bosses are implausibly self-serving. No one listens to each other and everyone is suspect.
At home, the situation is no better. 11811’s son mopes about the house like a ghastly wraith, gobbling up resources and demanding money for parties. Would helping with the rent be too much to ask? Yes, apparently. 11811 is so meek he absorbs his son’s accusations like a wet sponge.
The Yard piles obnoxious character upon obnoxious character, and just about every stroke of misfortune awaits 11811. After a while it all gets to be a bit too much, like having to devour chocolate mousse after a mud cake. What’s left by the end is a palate too numb to taste and a dinner that has been all but ruined.
The Yard screens at Cinema Paradiso July 28
Land Of Mine
Land of Mine proves to be a refreshingly new perspective on WWII, even if it falls flat compared to other classics of the genre.
⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ½
Land of Mine appropriately tackles a subject that not only hits close to home for its country of origin, but one that is also rarely discussed in cinema. It’s an eye-opening affair that offers a point of view as unique as the Scandinavians themselves.
Set in the days following the surrender of Germany in May 1945, young German Prisoners of War are sent over to the western coastline of Denmark in order to remove more than two million mines placed along the beaches from during their occupation. We begin to see life as it was immediately after the conclusion of the great war from the perspective of those held responsible for the atrocities.
Despite bringing something new to the table, Land of Mine doesn’t reach the heights of other World War II dramas such as Schindler’s List or the more recent Son of Saul, as it never strays from its predictable storyline. Production wise, however, Land of Mine is sure to be a festival highlight, with beautiful cinematography and excellent sound design.
Land Of Mine screens at Cinema Paradiso July 24, 25 & 30
Guilt and revenge seep through the cracks of tragedy as one family is torn apart and another begins in Petri Kotwica’s superbly crafted thriller.
⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ½
Kiia (Laura Birn), a heavily pregnant woman, enters labour prematurely whilst driving home from a party with her drunken husband (Eero Aho), causing her to swerve and hit something. Her husband investigates and insists to his wife that it must have been a deer. Following the birth, Kiia meets and befriends Hanna (Mari Rantasila), a woman in the emergency room whose husband has slipped into a coma after being run over and left to die on the side of the road. Realising the connection, Kiia develops increasing distrust of her husband…
Heavy themes of culpability, revenge and the desperation of amnesty swirl like a thick black cloud throughout Petri Kotwica’s (Black Ice) thriller Absolution; a slick tale of tragedy that manages to subvert expectations at every turn and remain an original and engaging think-piece. Though straightforward on the surface, it’s anything but beneath.
Kotwica keeps the pace even and expertly extracts tension out of the smallest situations, however, there are some pitfalls. The score is overly repetitive and a number of the plot points can’t help but feel all too conveniently placed. But thankfully most of this is clouded by the air of sheer intrigue all the way through.
Absolution screens at Cinema Paradiso July 22, 26 & 30
Images courtesy of Scandinavian Film Festival 2016 & Palace Films