29 November, 2008

Färval Falkenberg (Falkenberg Farewell) (2006)

Swede and slow

This is definitely a film you will either like or you won't. I found it very hard going for the first half an hour at least - a big investment of time considering I couldn't see what direction it was taking. Directed by Jesper Ganslandt (whose first film this is), the story grinds on at a snail's pace for a good long while - not a lot actually happens, at least by major movie standards.

The film follows the lives of several young men living in the popular seaside resort of Fälkenberg, in western Sweden. Life is pretty mundane by youth standards. There is talk of maybe going to the local club or going back to one of their houses to eat chocolate or cake mix - pretty riveting stuff. The two main characters, David (David Johnson) and Holger (Holger Eriksson) pass most of their boring days hanging around, deciding whether or not to paint the house, swimming, and getting high in the forest on 'shrooms.

It is during these mushroom trips that David becomes introspective and weeps for his lost youth and the innocence of days past - long, langorous summer days as kids growing up in a Swedish town. He yearns for the simplicity and freedom of those times, and has difficulty coming to terms with the fact he is finally growing up and is obliged to make what seem to be difficult choices.

The film is narrated by David, and follows the format of a diary, with dates and entries spoken over the action, such as it is. The reason for this becomes obvious later in the film, and the idea is used to good effect. As far as a script goes, it seems very ad-libbed, as I suppose a lot of it is, but there are many lines and statements without which the film wouldn't work at all.

As far as cinematography goes, there isn't a lot to speak of. Most of it seems to be shot on regular stock film, but there are also a lot of flashbacks to parties and family life in general, all taken on what appears to be super-8, the 8mm home video of the 70s. It also appears that the movies are genuinely those of the central characters, lending authenticity. The technique that divides many people on this movie is the heavy use of a hand-held camera. Some don't like its (over)use, but I feel that, along with the seemingly trite and mundane dialogue, it tries hard to capture the soul of the youth of Fälkenberg. This is all topped off by a very eclectic soundtrack, which does sit well with the scenes.

When things do begin to happen, and the point of the lengthy build-up is revealed, you'll come to understand the need to sit through the first 40 minutes or so. This is a film of honesty, genuine emotional depth and a strange, essential beauty but also very powerful emotions and surprising depth of characterizations. Will you like it? I don't know. I didn't at first, as it moves at the pace of a Scandinavian glacier, but it's ultimately worth the journey.

Awards: Click here for more details.

91 mins. In Swedish.

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