The student, the neighbour and her lover
by Vitor Pinto
05/07/2010 - A medical student obsessed by his exams, a rather invasive new neighbour and the neighbour’s lover, the type of man that nobody would like to have as an enemy: these three characters gravitate around a small apartment and the corridor of an apartment block. Crossing this corridor involves facing up to one’s fear, a fear that is all the greater when one finds it hard to confront reality.
With a small budget compensated by a perfect mastery of the codes of genre cinema, Swedish directors Johan Lundborg and Johan Storm deliver their debut feature Corridor [trailer, film focus]. A claustrophobic thriller that hasn’t gone unnoticed, in particular at the Brussels Film Festival 2010.
Corridor catches up with a character created by Lundborg in 2003 in his final-year short film at Gothenburg University: Frank, a competitive medical student and antisocial neighbour. Seven years later, in the feature-length version of the short, Frank hasn’t changed. His creator, on the other hand, has decided to co-direct his film with Storm, another Gothenburg graduate.
Cowardly and calculating, Frank is an anti-hero par excellence who confronts viewers with their own fears. Storm makes him into a sort of anti-Harrison Ford. In films starring the latter, people behave in an ideal way, whereas in Corridor, they behave like the majority would do in real life.
Played, like in the short version, by Norwegain actor Emil Johnsen, the young medical student is convinced that his neighbour Lotte (Ylva Gallon) has been murdered by her jealous fiancé (Peter Stormare). Therein follows a series of incidents, deceptions, telephone calls and persecutions with unexpected consequences.
The fascination that Frank seems to exert over the two young filmmakers is obvious given the time and details dedicated to him in the story. The plot, anchored in a visual narration that leaves little room for long dialogue, enables viewers to see Frank "grow" before their eyes, to the point where, throughout the film, the audience’s expectations and fears are completely manipulated by what the character thinks, does and imagines.
This gamble pays off in the subjective way of telling the story shot almost entirely in interiors (the university, Frank’s flat and the apartment block landings). Corridor draws its strength from the way it combines this solid central character construction and the huis clos structure of the story. The character’s anguish increases at the same time as his space is restricted.
With an inventive direction that never resorts to special effects to create the required tension, Corridor confirms the classic idea that the unspoken and fantasy are often more dangerous (and attractive) than stifling reality. The film also proves that it is possible for a high-quality psychological thriller to escape the confines of markets and festivals specialised in fantasy cinema, whilst cleverly trying to reach out to mainstream audiences.