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The Watcher (2000)
Tight suspense without gore
I enjoy a movie that refrains from big effects, and still manages to create tension, suspense and a dramatic acceleration. This one does.
The way it avoids closeups on murder victims, even the moments of murder, reminds me of the Hitchcock principle of less is more. It is very elegantly done, if such a word is permitted in this circumstance. At the moment when our horror of what is about to take place is at its peak, the camera moves away. Other scenes, with a more complex emotional content, are allowed to play out.
Played out competently, I must add. Both Keanu Reeves and James Spader perform with sophistication, creating a rare psychological realism. Their faces seem like clean of make-up, like those in Rembrandt paintings.
Many more things about the movie are both intelligent and original, such as avoiding to have primitive aggression played out between police officers, although Spader plays an outsider to the force, and not a very polite one at that.
There are some weaknesses as well. Primarily, I would have liked to see the relation between the main characters - the hunter and the hunted - explored further. It needed to be anchored in the story, from the beginning of it, and processed to its own dramatic conclusion.
Simon Birch (1998)
A film of many charming features, indeed, but what struck me as the most impressive quality of it, was its delicate balance between comedy and tragedy. Strolling ahead on a tight rope, with abyss on either side - that of despair and that of burlesque - and never falling. It even succeeds in a most daring balance between pity and parody.
Portraying a boy with such a severe physical handicap, and with terrible parents at that, would normally tie any director's hands and feet, and the result would be sweet, at best. In this film, though, we are even allowed to smile at the odd clashes between the normal and that which is not, and laugh at the situation comedy evolving. The result is endearing, truly compassionate.
And the acting is tremendous, especially from Joseph Mazzello and Ian Michael Smith, the two boys in a very odd couple friendship. Mazzello is breathtaking in scenes of such emotional complexity that most actors would be wise to find an easy way out. I have no idea how he does it, but certainly it is by talent - no schooling gives that kind of tools.
The plot is overly complex, with several 'deus ex machina' events uncalled for, et cetera - probably in fear that the skilled balance of the film and the nerve of the acting would not suffice. But they do, and then some.
Good Will Hunting (1997)
What do geniuses say?
Good story, excellent acting - especially by Matt Damon, really outdistancing all the others - and an awakener of many thoughts. Just one thing: what do geniuses say, really?
A script writer might need to be one, too, to get it right. This film leans heavily on learning, instead of wisdom, on wits instead of brilliance, on truisms instead of innovative perspectives. The actors do a great job in hiding this flaw, but there it is.
The nature of the genius has been explored since the romanticism of the early 19th century - I'm not sure the idea of such blessed humans was even around, before that. Maybe such people exist, and maybe not. In most cases, they have very specialized talents. Some have perfect memory, others excel at math. That does in no way make them better equipped for rhetoric or social skills. Thus, a genius can be a real idiot, outside that special field of competence.
Let's say that two brilliant persons sit down and have a very enlightened conversation with each other. What do they say? How much do they have to say? And will we, the audience, at all understand? Afore such uncertainties, succumbing to a love story finale seems to be the safe way out. But that's no stroke of genius.
Cruel Intentions (1999)
Cruel, but not enough steam
The 18th century story about seduction, love and betrayal is a juicy one, deserving the many movie versions it has gotten lately. Here it is moved to a contemporary upper class late-teen setting, which is a splendid idea. Eros rules there, as well.
The actors obviously take delight in filling their characters with lust and longing, hatred too, and the story runs along with youthful energy. The problem is the lack of steam, of sensuality brought beyond the level of romance. The siblings with their games of seduction, make sense only when allowed to show a most heathen worship of sexuality, but here at times it becomes almost Victorian.
So, when love enters and conquers lust, it's not much of a change. The actors might have been aroused, but the camera was all the time prudish, closing its eye when things were about to get hot. The theme was treated with too much inhibition, and the power played with by the siblings, seemed like not much of a power at all. Seductions were so swift, copulations so lighthearted - no excitement, no taboo, no sense in the characters being so dramatic about it.
Eros is a much more powerful deity than that.
Apocalypse Now (1979)
Apocalypse now and forever
Coppola's apocalyptic vision belongs to an ever present now. The dark sides of human character, the purgatory we frequently create for ourselves, unwillingly - that just doesn't end. It is often said that Heaven is right here, right now - well, if so, hell is too.
When the soldiers take the boat up-river, deeper into a strange and terrible land, it is like going on the river Styx to that domain, where mercy ends. Also, it's the long and troublesome travels of Odysseus, before coming home - to find that home is irrevocably changed. And it's Stanley's long search for Dr. Livingstone.
Mythical grounds. The water of the subconscious, the jungle of irrationality - man's curse and blessing in one.
Marlon Brando is divine in his acting. As soon as he appears, the long time leading up to it just disappears, and he is a demon, a monster from the beyond - still, so real, so true as an archetype of human dignity, maybe the most fundamental of our talents, gone awry. The horror.
This is the first time I see the film, in 2003, more than 20 years after it premiered. I chose to wait. So many movies deteriorate in a much shorter period than that, but this one, I dare say, is enforced by time, and will continue to be.
Well, thirteen short conversations
The title is not very accurate. There is some dialogue in the film, but not more than usual in drama - actually a bit less. That's a pity. People are confronted by twists of fate, so I would have liked to hear them comment more on it, share more of their thoughts and reflections.
Movies today have an exaggerated fear of words. There's a lot of one-liners instead of dialogue. But Shakespeare was not wrong, words words words bear meaning, explore characters, make food for thoughts. It demands excellence from the writer - whether the dialogue is high-brow or not - and maybe that's what's mostly missing.
In this film, the underdeveloped conversations leave the characters a bit superficial, their souls still closed to us, even when disaster strikes them. A pity, since there are some interesting people - like the DA with a conscience doing a sort of Raskolnikov thing, the middle-aged man unable to take any initiative in his life, and others. I'm sure they have more to say, than they do.
Still, the film on the whole is a pleasant poem, where the lines have been mixed around but the meaning remains crystal clear. I'd say that's the one thing: meaning. It is, isn't it?
Den osynlige (2002)
Formidably gripping drama-thriller on the verge of death
Swedish film generally remains in stating the obvious and sticking to the conventions of the time, but then there are those rare exceptions, reaching an unforeseen level. 'Invisible' is one of those few. A splendid achievement by the team Bergvall and Sandquist in their first full-length movie.
A couple of years ago they got an Academy Awards nomination in the short film category, for 'Victor', also on the grave theme of death. 'Invisible' is based on a novel by the Swedish writer Mats Wahl, a mighty storyteller.
This story is indeed mighty. A high school senior, bound by his mother's high expectations, is beaten up brutally, due to a misunderstanding, by a delinquent girl of his age, and left for dead. When he comes to school the next day, he finds that everybody ignores him, as if he had become invisible. Soon, he realizes that he really is.
This slight ingredient of the paranormal, makes the story rise to a mythical magnitude, and the film makers, as well as the actors, manage to keep it there, to explore the grand perspectives suddenly appearing. Still, the very concrete psychological drama continues, and intensifies.
It all amounts to one formidably gripping experience, not easily forgotten. There are, of course, clear links to 'Sixth Sense' and a number of other movies about the mysterious borderland between life and death, and the necessity for our lives to reach some kind of conclusion, some kind of harmony, before passing on.
If searching for them, one can find some small weaknesses - like the unnecessary presence of a gun, or the inability of the dialogue to deal with those profound existential questions - but that's easily forgotten in the very touching and beautiful whole of the film, and more so after its uncompromising and magnificent ending.
In the Bedroom (2001)
Tragedy without solace
The laws of drama encourage as strong effects as possible, to make the audience react emotionally and have what Aristotle called catharsis. This film sure follows the doctrine, and then some.
It takes its time in making us care about the characters, and then hits them with disaster. Oh, we feel it. Darkness. And not a single spark of light.
It gets to be too much. The story is so sad, and no comfort within sight. This makes every additional minute of the film increasingly unbearable. It guarantees respect for the film, since no one can brush it off like a minor or flawed piece of art - but it's a very simple way of accomplishing grandeur.
This story really has very little to tell: grief hurts, big grief hurts a lot. Yes. And?
Although the actors are brilliant, it doesn't help much when they are given neither words nor deeds to carry them on a profound process of overcoming grief. So, they go nowhere. Nothing happens.
Overwhelming grief, its psychology and development, has been explored frequently through the long history of drama, and a lot has been said along the way - well, most of it was said already by the Greeks. In the light of that, how can a drama made in 2001 refrain from at least making a contemplative comment, when handling the same subject?
I believe that the main problem with this film, is that at the end of the first Act, it created such gloom, such sorrow, it could neither rise from it nor go beneath it. That makes no catharsis.
The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)
A too funny family
This is one odd family. All the kids are prodigies, becoming messed up adults. Sure, the father abandoned them, and the mother seems a bit too orderly - but still, I see no clue either to the genius of the kids or to their adult misery.
The film is a pile of jokes and absurdities, and that's fine with me. Like a Marx brothers thing. But the Marx never pretended to have a plot worth contemplating, whereas the Tenenbaum story does. It doesn't compute. Every new information we receive about anyone of the characters - and there's plenty of it - just raises new questions. Why? How?
Although there is a lot of fun going on, right to the end, the shortcomings in the plot and the lack of penetration into what drives the characters, sort of makes the film evaporate at the very moment it ends, leaving no lasting aftertaste.
The Tenenbaums should have been a bit less funny, to give room for their characters to take form - or even more funny, never once leaving the absurd.
Bittersweet comedy afraid of the dark
The high school reunion is traumatic to anyone with a heart and a brain. Our teen years just keep on nagging us, all of our lives. And nothing makes as good comedy, as the sad sides of life.
This film follows the patterns and lands in what could be expected, which is sort of OK in comedy. It does have some amusing twists to it - especially the drastic mixture of past and present. The characters change places with their younger alter egos, like flashbacks but in present time scenes. I would say that this is how our memory works, making us jump in time subconsciously, as if we have forever that teen inside of us. Also, it adds a poetic quality to the film.
It's the most endearing with the main character, who interacts constantly with his teenage self, who tries desperately to make him more cool, and urges him to get out of his sheltered existence. Yes, how kindly would we be judged by ourselves in our teens, if they saw us now? To some extent, we can live with it, having other values than we did back then, but in other cases - well, well.
I would have loved to see this conflict explored and deepened - that between the adult person and the teenager he once was. Unfortunately, the film stays on the surface of it, probably in fear of darkening the comedy too much. But comedy thrives on darkness, not on light. Happy and well-adjusted people don't invite to laughter, but misery sure does - I think already Aristotle stated this, in what little remains of his thoughts on comedy.
Certainly, there is some misery in the film, but just as it is about to really grab us, then comes a smile with snow white teeth, or a joke to release the tension. It is irritating. So also, is the fact that the dialogue contains little worth listening to. The writers/directors have not penetrated the subject sufficiently, or they just don't think so much of it.
Still, there were several moments where I laughed out loud, and in between the film was kind of cute.
American Strays (1996)
The grave implications of an anthem
One of the characters in the movie points out the violence present in the Star Spangled Banner, claiming that it has fostered Americans to a life of violence. He says that it would have been much better if America the Beautiful would have been the US anthem.
Indeed, the lyrics of the song are filled of war rhetoric. Actually, the French equivalent, La Marseillaise, is just as brutal - at least. I guess that it goes for a number of anthems, since they often emerged from a nationalist crescendo, which is usually related to a war of some sort. All in all, nations as such have a history of war, closely linked to their formation. Hey, that's pretty true about civilization. It's a mystery how this species has survived.
Anyway, in American Strays, we follow a few fragments of human lives, and how they connect, purely by chance, leading to a grand finale in the spirit of said anthems. It's a sinister perspective on Americans, but also partly a beautiful one. Yes, there is beauty in the midst of gun smoke and brutality - fragile beauty, but isn't that the very nature of beauty? When strong, it loses its shine.
The film is refined in how it follows some human fates, at the point of their catharsis, and does so without judging, without staying at stereotypes. It is satire, certainly, but done with a heart and with intelligence - and curiosity, too. The characters have several dimensions, far from being simple caricatures, and what happens to them is foreseeable, but still not the most obvious way out.
Yes, I'm impressed by this little study of human nature. Although the persons depicted are odd creatures, in rare circumstances, something general is being stated about man, about society, about the very torment for each of us in trying to find fulfillment. And that's the same, whatever the nation or its anthem.
There is more in dreams
This movie seems as if Kurosawa intended it to be his last. It has an air of testament, of final words. In a number of separate episodes, he takes us through scenes of increasing darkness, and lands in one of peace and light. Surely, he intended the obvious likeness to Dante's Divine Comedy.
WARNING: SLIGHT SPOILERS
Then, Kurosawa's Paradise is one of minimal splendor, a return to agricultural simplicity, man in harmony with nature. It's the same kind of ideal as expressed in the last verse of the Chinese book Tao The Ching. I have always suspected that ideal to be little more than a romantic illusion - a sweet dream, but boring to actually live in.
The previous episodes are much more intense and fascinating, to the extent where one has to wonder if, perchance, Kurosawa would not have preferred to end up in one of them, rather than the last one - in spite of the torment they contain.
Anyway, the film starts and ends with procession - the first a wedding, the last a funeral. In Kurosawa's Dreams, the former is threatening, and the latter joyous. I wonder why there is no birth. There are children, though, but they are in no way spared from the sorrows of the world. Sadly, that is true to life.
Less realistic is the scarce presence of women. The most prominent female character is a sort of Snow Queen, trying to kill some men lost in the mountains. "The snow is warm, the ice is hot," she says to one of them, to make him sleep. True, indeed - but a harmful warmth, a deadly heat. Still, it cannot compare to the genocide heat produced by men, later on in the movie.
These are dreams? If so, they are surprisingly barren. Not the likes of Dante's - or, I dare say, anyone else's. Dreams are complex things, and when studied closely, they open up like Pandora's box. Kurosawa's episodes are not dreams, in that sense, but mere silhouettes of them. For dreams to be revealed, they must be entered. Kurosawa seems to have kept them on a distance, taming them with his waking state.
Perhaps he had found that his dreams could not compare to what he had accomplished in his many great movies.
Eyes Wide Shut (1999)
Nothing much, in beautiful wrapping
It's a pity that this became Kubrick's last movie. Some artists seem to know when their time is up, and hurry to make sort of an artistic testament - like Dostoevsky in the last 50 or so pages of Brothers Karamazov. I gather that Kubrick did not have such a premonition, or he just felt that there was not much to add to his fabulous suite of movies.
This one is a long series of beautiful sceneries, and beautiful people parading, but there's really not much happening. Not much to be shocked about, either. Tom Cruise's character is bewildered to find a secret group committed to rituals of a frank but also quite conventional sexual nature. Why would that be so unsettling? He is also perplexed to learn that his wife has fantasies of unfaithfulness, and more so to find that he can have them, too. Huh?
I guess the movie would have been much more interesting, if instead we had been following Nicole Kidman, playing his wife, on similar adventures. Since she was more at ease with those thirsts within herself, the development would no doubt have been more interesting. Kidman also handles her role with much more delicacy, enriching it, while Cruise mainly stands around looking stiff - well, the script might not have given him much else to do.
This whole film would have been much better off, if directed by Fellini. He would have known to go beyond the middle class morality, and fill the scenes with such stuff as of which dreams are really woven.
Murder by Numbers (2002)
The numbers don't really add up
It's a swell thriller: a reasonably sophisticated plot, with some neat twists and turns, good camera work, and a kind of satisfactory ending. But just as with the murder story in question, the flaws become apparent at closer examination.
Most important, the characters are not sufficiently presented and explained. The deadly duet shows a very close relation, but not what keeps it so close. It would be easy enough to understand, if they were lovers. Then their quarrel over a girl also makes sense. Since they are not - as far as the movie shows us - their relation remains a mystery.
The same, to a lesser extent, is true about the detective duet. Bullock is not really able to convince with her tough exterior to hide inner wounds, although that should be easy for an actor of her experience, and her male colleague gets no room in the film to show us why he stands her, after what she puts him through the very first days they work together.
Although it's mainly a thriller, I guess this movie would have needed some additional efforts on the drama of it, the emotional processes included in it. Maybe it's all too logical - like numbers.
Too Tired to Die (1998)
Death ought to be more exciting
It's about death, this movie, and the struggle to find meaning to one's life, when having only a few hours to do it. Big subjects, indeed, worthy of a great artist - needing one, really. Writer/director Chin doesn't suffice.
The film plays with classic themes, related to this topic - such as the chess game with the reaper in Bergman's 'Seventh Seal'. Bergman's knight loses the game, but wins the lives of those he has learned to hold dear. In this movie, nothing is gained, and so one wonders: is anything at all lost?
There's an interesting atmosphere in the film, sort of an arty New York setting through an immigrant's eyes, but neither that nor anything else is really followed through. What must be meant to have some profound undercurrent, remains just surface - and a quickly sketched surface, at that. It would have been better to make this film a pure comedy.
The Thin Red Line (1998)
Nonetheless, a war movie
War is a nasty business. One of its most dangerous characteristics is its strong appeal - when we're not at war, we are drawn to it. In the movies, this causes them all to be seductive, no matter how much they are aimed at revealing the horror of it.
Kurt Vonnegut commented on it, in the foreword of his major novel, 'Slaughterhouse Five', where he tells a nurse that he's going to write a book about the war, to reveal its monstrosity. The nurse warns him - no matter how he writes it, it's still going to be a movie with Frank Sinatra in the lead, glorifying war. He assures her that this book will not be a movie.
Of course, a movie was made of it - though not with Frank Sinatra in the lead.
'The Thin Red Line', also based on a book, surely aims at a peace message, but it turns out pretty much like any other war movie. Soldiers - some brave, some cowardly - run around in a beautiful jungle, shooting enemies while saying or thinking poetic existential stuff. So?
Me, I'm bored with the thoughts expressed, which are far too conventional, far too superficial, although pretentious. I'm equally bored by the countless gun shots, the struggle to win a hill and then the struggle to keep it, et cetera.
There might be a story hidden in all of this, but it has not been extracted, instead it was camouflaged by a lot of scenery, intermingled with fractions of contemplation. At least, that jungle is easy on the eyes.
Provocative, but unlikely
Stig Larsson is sort of an enfant terrible in Swedish literature, gifted at accomplishing the infernal. In this TV movie, he creates a sort of nightmare, by having a company CEO surprise visit one of his employees, and using his authority to terrorize his host.
Larsson is able to make the drama very upsetting, not to say revolting, exposing the darkest sides of human capacity or incapacity. Yet, I had great troubles accepting the plot, since I found no reason to believe that a regular employee, a 'simple worker', would take that bullying from a boss high up in the hierarchy - it would have been so much more believable, if it was a junior executive harassed, somebody who needed to comply, because of his own ambitions with the company. Regular workers rarely have enough to hope for in a company, that they would suffer something of this nature.
Still, it's an impressive flood of emotions, which Larsson is able to evoke. He makes the audience frustrated, angry, vindictive, and I guess that's exactly what he wanted.
A delightful animated comedy about the Christmas spirit
In English: 'The Christmas Eve of Karl-Bertil Jonsson'. This little story, by comedy writer Tage Danielsson and artist Per Ahlin, is a jewel.
With equal portions of affection and humor, the story of the young boy Karl-Bertil, and how he spends Christmas, is told. He takes the Christmas spirit far, when working at the post office and deciding to re-address Christmas gifts, so that they end up with poor people. His father finds it out, but what happens next is not what daddy had surmised.
The style of animation is original and charming, with a well-found sort of antique air to it, and the story unfolds very pleasantly - still not ignorant of the injustices in the society portrayed. A social message is presented, but in a very sweet and enjoyable way.
Tage Danielsson had a very personal way of combining pathos with comic ease, and this is one of the best examples of it.
Penetrating the immorality of the well-to-do
'Myglaren' is a Swedish word which can be translated 'wangler' or maybe 'wheeler-dealer' - someone who uses morally questionable tricks for his private benefit, a tick on society's back.
Unfortunately, I don't remember this movie in detail, not having seen it much since 1966, but already then, it made an impact on me. This is a realistic penetration of the minds of those who want to be on top, want to be better off, want to grab the biggest piece of the cake. Yes, it's ugly. Still, this documentary style drama is done in low key, leaving for the audience to draw the conclusions - not that they are hard to reach.
The script writer is Jan Myrdal, one of the leading figures of the Swedish literary scene - constantly provocative, in his own ideology of what I like to call conservative socialism. The lead is played by Christer Stromholm, the very most renowned Swedish art photographer ever, who died in 2002. He plays this role exquisitely.
In Swedish movie history, this is no doubt a very important work, and it needs to be shown repeatedly. What it reveals is not a thing of the past, but a sadly constant ingredient in society.
How memorable, really?
Memento is a reminder or a warning, as in the classic expression: Memento mori, remember that you will die. It is grim, but also helpful. Shouldn't we live our lives like that? Should we not, like Leonard in the movie, reexamine our whole situation, each morning after waking up?
When Leonard fights his incapacitated short-memory, to catch the killer of his wife and avenge her, he has found a simple, straightforward meaning to his life, easily filling each new moment of his days - and there are many. Upon completion, what can he possibly do to keep such a sense of purpose? It's pretty much a no-win situation.
But the movie is fascinating, mainly because of it staying, as Kurt Vonnegut called it in 'Slaughterhouse 5', "unstuck in time". This opens for a refreshing narration, keeping your eyes open and your mind awake. It is done with great skill, too, so that it almost becomes natural, as if time is supposed to work like this.
My problem is with the characters. In this staccato form, they do not really get any depth, are not explored to the extent where I feel I know what makes them tick. The characters become like the plot itself: cut up in tiny pieces, and scrambled.
That would be Ok, too, if it were not for the ending (which I will not give away here). The ending - well, the beginning, sort of - loses credibility by the fact that we have gotten to know too little about the main characters, to anchor it in. Not as bad as a deus ex machina intervention in the last minute, but still. I don't feel the ending to be what Aristotle meant by 'necessary', and I don't know enough about the characters to say what would have been such an ending.
Unfortunately, this shortcoming makes the film less memorable than it otherwise deserves to be.
Travolta manages both faces, Cage none
For an actor, this must be great fun - to play the ultimate bad guy, and the good one, too. The former is easier than the latter, since good guys usually are pretty blank. Maybe that is evidence of good just not being natural, or at least not exciting.
Anyway, Travolta manages both roles, doing the good guy with small means and great care, and letting the bad guy stand out like fireworks, but still imply ambiguity, short moments on the verge of regret. Cage, though, has trouble with both. The good guy he makes a bit too sweet, and the bad guy superficial, like a parody.
I wonder why. Acting is a complicated art, having emotions and instinct as its sources. Probably, what an actor needs most of all is the ability to sympathize with the role, find that facet in oneself which somehow correlates to the character. It might be, then, that Travolta has more facets within himself to utilize, or more readily searches them out.
Mauvaises fréquentations (1999)
Escalating drama, but out of character
For more than half an hour, this is no more than a conventional and rather boring story about first love among young teens. Maybe the film makers realized this, adding a rude drama for the second half of the movie, which has very little to do with the first half.
It could work, in the same way a good thriller can take a long time before the horrors emerge - but it doesn't, not at all, because the development of the plot is simply not plausible in the characters. There is nothing in them, which convinces me that they would get themselves into that mess. Nor is there anything about them revealed in the second half of the movie, which would bring light to the sudden change.
It's like two movies in one, or maybe even three or four. One or two of them could be good, left alone, but not a chance when they're messed up with each other.
Mr. Music (1998)
A young Alfred E. Neumann in a one man show
I happened upon this one, while zapping TV channels. The face of Jonathan Tucker made me stay there. He looks like a young Alfred E. Neumann, the mascot of MAD magazine. He even acts and behaves in a way, which is consistent with what one would expect from the MAD figure. You know: "What, me worry?"
Tucker plays the lead in the movie, as a high school kid allowed to be a music industry exec for a while. The usual stuff happens, you can guess the whole plot without me giving another clue. Just one decent idea in it, really - to put a teenager in charge. That is revolutionary, if pulled through to any extent, so of course it doesn't happen here.
No, the only sparkle in the movie is Tucker, who has the ability to be so darn jolly, and still express a personality, lots of charm, and some real acting potential. It's no surprise to me, checking the IMDb, that he's done more movies later on - scripts and characters of greater challenge, at that. I have to check them out.
Touching story about working class kids and their complexity
This is a wonderful movie, the first by director Agneta Fagerstrom-Olsson, dealing a lot with her own childhood experiences. It follows mainly working-class kids on the verge of puberty, as they try to make their big souls fit into a rather limited world.
Usually, when working-class is portrayed in movies, they are simplified, as if belonging to a lesser race than those of the other classes. Not so here. The dreams, the longings of all human beings, are given room here, expressed through the minds and actions of kids from very simple circumstances.
The director, who also wrote the script, has an ability to get under the skin of the characters, make them come alive to an extent rare on cinema (well, this production was for TV). What makes the deepest impression on me, is that she somehow captures the most fragile essence of the characters, that which makes them real, really real.
Mannen från Mallorca (1984)
Thriller held in a firm grip
Director Widerberg could do very well in widely separate genres. He did a few crime stories on cinema, but never just for the 'who dunnit'. There had to be a burning social message, something rotting in the kingdom.
Here it sure is. The Leif GW Persson novel, on which the film is based, is about misuse of power, all the way up. The novel is actually loosely based on a political scandal in Sweden, which Persson was involved in revealing.
Widerberg's movie has got several qualities, way beyond that of creating a thrill. With a very firm grip, of the kind only somebody that skilled as a director can have, he tightens the suspense, intensifies the conflict, broadens the importance of what takes place, until the film becomes an unpleasant, but in its own way accurate, revelation about modern society. And it's a good thrill, too.
A trivia of interest to none but me, I guess, is that one of the locations is my apartment at that time.