The Volvo Scandinavian Film Festival closes in Perth tonight! Go get yourself some excellent foreign cinema while you still can. Here’s a couple of films that we checked out from the festival.
The Swan (Svanurinn) – Iceland
An elegant story of a young girl’s sexual awakening set against a beautiful Icelandic backdrop.
The Swan is a delicate story about Sól, a nine-year-old girl who is sent to the countryside to work as part of an Icelandic tradition to encourage independence and maturity in pre-teen children. While at the farm, Sól not only learns about the harsh realities of life but begins her first foray into lust as she crushes on the much older farm hand Jón.
The Swan is a sensitive and unexpected portrayal of a young girl as she begins to mature and navigate the challenges of life. The Swan doesn’t shy away from discussing tough subjects like the brutal side of farm life, abortion and unrequited love. We only see these subjects from Sól’s point of view, but that doesn’t make it any less confronting. The truthful and honest portrayal of a young girl’s sexual awakening was also impressive, especially as young actress Gríma Valsdóttir handled the heaviness of the subject matter with a maturity well beyond her years.
Despite all the brutality, Martin Neumeyer’s cinematography brings a softness and beauty to the film, that gives it a whimsical, romantic feel of a Jane Austen novel. Neumeyer captures the beauty and harshness of the Icelandic backdrop, keeping close to Sól and exploring her point of view from a visual side.
A truly exquisite and captivating film from first time feature film director Ása Helga Hjörleifsdótirr.
A Horrible Woman (En Frygtelig Kvinde) – Denmark
Christian Tafdrup’s A Horrible Woman is what it is – a portrait of a fairly horrible woman.
I believe there are people like this. People who enter into a relationship and turn the very air sour. People who are so toxic they’re not even good for themselves. There is such a person in A Horrible Woman, the new film by Christian Tafdrup, and she is a bitter force indeed.
It opens with a bunch of drunk guys in an apartment. One of their wives comes home with a couple of friends, and one of them, the tall, attractive Marie (Amanda Collin), takes a strong liking to the apartment’s owner, Rasmus (Anders Juul). They flirt, they sleep together, they go steady, she moves in. Next minute, she’s moving him out, piece by piece. First, it’s his CD collection, then it’s the poster of Jeff Bridges from The Big Lebowski. He feels like he’s drowning, and his friend Troels (Rasmus Hammerich) isn’t much help. We have all, in some form, encountered a person like Marie. Or have we?
Collin delivers a tight, menacing, ultimately brilliant performance, with her narrow face and Natalie Portman smile, and the movie is thoroughly gripping in most places. But A Horrible Woman plays more like an instruction on what not to do in a relationship than an examination of an actual couple. And is it too much to suspect that something supernatural might be going on? Why does Marie keep breaking the fourth wall? Why are all of her friends cackling women? What’s the deal with Troels’ wife? Some food for thought, perhaps.
Images courtesy of Volvo Scandinavian Film Festival and Palace Cinemas.