by Marta Bałaga
- The closing film of the Göteborg Film Festival provides the kind of razzle-dazzle rarely seen this side of Baz Luhrmann
John (Albin Grenholm) and Ninni (model Frida Gustavsson) grow up immersed in the bitter rivalry that exists between their families. At first glance, their world seems full of marvel, but with both clans running amusement parks right next to each other and intent on winning every client they can, they learn to play dirty early on. When after a lifetime of nasty pranks and practical jokes they meet again as adults over the summer of 1940, their mutual attraction is as surprising as it is immediate. But in Swoon [+see also:
interview: Måns Mårlind and Björn Stein
film profile], world-premiering as the closing film of the Göteborg Film Festival, soon they will have to face other problems as well.
Having collaborated since they were 15 years old, directors Måns Mårlind and Björn Stein don’t believe in doing things gradually – with its hair-raising visual panache, Swoon is the type of film that’s not afraid of being kitsch, and if anything, it actually uses it to its advantage. With a familiar set-up revolving around forbidden love, it quickly swaps a balcony in Verona for a ladder and a bear costume, and has the would-be lovers firing roses at each other in the midst of a dream. If it sounds funny, it’s because its over-the-topness is, in fact, frequently hilarious, with Swoon’s unapologetic desire to entertain echoing Baz Luhrmann’s iconic aesthetic so loudly that he might just be able to hear it all the way down in Sydney.
The movie harks back particularly to Luhrmann’s ultimate folly, Moulin Rouge!, with catchy pop songs once again skilfully re-imagined to blend into a retro setting (who knew that Bon Jovi’s “You Give Love a Bad Name” could sound so respectable?) and a knockout heroine towering over the rest of the cast. But where Luhrmann would always dive headfirst into the craziness and merrily roll around in glitter and garters, the Swedish duo holds back – and so does their cast. Especially Pernilla August, who might just as well be playing in some period social drama and not acknowledging the oddness of her surroundings with as much as a wink. Talk about that famous Scandinavian reserve.
Still, even if it often comes off as a bit magpie-like, Swoon is extremely watchable, and all of these borrowed trinkets ultimately shine just as bright. Where it underwhelms, however, is the emotional aspect, with the central romance proving that getting two pretty people together does not chemistry make, and the numerous references to the political turmoil of the era slowing the story down, rather than making it deeper. With scenes that playful, the sudden bursts of confusingly realistic violence or a disturbing headline glimpsed as if in passing strike us as odd, although they clearly serve to establish the directors’ own take on the story. One that in spite of all the gloss and well-polished CGI has an innocence to it – a nostalgic familiarity that somehow fits in quite well, capturing the very moment when the world suddenly lost all of its colour. And when people started to fire more than just roses.
Swoon is a Swedish production staged by Kristina Åberg, of Atmo Production, in co-production with Parks & Resorts Scandinavia, Nordisk Film, Nordsvensk Filmunderhållning, TV4, Chimney, Mikael Ahlström Films, the Film Capital Stockholm Fund, Filminvestering i Örebro and Spellbound Capital. It is being distributed locally by Nordisk Film. World sales are handled by TrustNordisk.
Did you enjoy reading this article? Please subscribe to our newsletter to receive more stories like this directly in your inbox.