by Marta Bałaga
- The winner of this year’s DOX:AWARD doesn’t provide easy answers, or indeed any answers at all, but after a while you won’t even care
John Skoog’s Ridge [+see also:
film profile], hailed as the winner of the DOX:AWARD at this year’s CPH:DOX (see the news), has already been described as a “hybrid film”. It’s a rather general term, but one that seems about right – with its unlikely mixture of Terrence Malick-approved use of “magic hour” and, ahem, cows, Ridge is an odd beast, drifting between genres as it pleases and leaving barely-there traces only for some to spot. Also because while at first glance it may look like yet another exposé of the working conditions of farm labourers, in this case arriving in Sweden from Poland, soon enough it turns out that one of them is recognisable actress Agnieszka Podsiadlik, so effective in Baby Bump [+see also:
interview: Kuba Czekaj
film profile] and Małgorzata Szumowska’s Silver Bear winner Mug [+see also:
interview: Małgorzata Szumowska
film profile]. Needless to say, things only get more convoluted from there on in.
Co-written by Skoog and Anna Karasińka, Ridge doesn’t really offer any explanations, nor does it seem very interested in making any kind of point – something that already set it light years apart from other films in the main competition of the Danish gathering, where some of the strongest titles were also the most conservative. The way it looks makes it stand out, too, for it may turn out to be one of the most beautifully shot films of the year, with Ita Zbroniec-Zajt’s cinematography (which already earned her the Sven Nykvist Cinematography Award at the Göteborg Film Festival) so luscious it’s almost too much to stand sometimes.
This is one of the reasons why, instead of taking a closer look at the workers’ daily routines, the whole thing slowly turns into an unlikely celebration of that strange thing called the Nordic summer, with its gorgeous light frequently illuminating visitors’ freckled faces as they share never-ending stories, often delivered in one take, or venture into the wilds of nature on their own. For a story about a group of people forced together for a few months, it’s an experience that clearly favours individuality, and even though in his feature debut, Skoog came back to his home village of Kvidinge, his decision to look at it through the eyes of those who have barely set foot on foreign soil gives him a perfect excuse to truly marvel at the surroundings.
And these surroundings are almost otherworldly at times, as strange anecdotes and personal stories – not to mention some extremely well-executed snail extermination – are intercut with hypnotising, if also rather repetitive, shots of farming machinery in action. “Last May, we had two cows that got outside the fence,” announces a voice at the very beginning, as if recounting an age-old tale. “Sometimes, someone would call to say they had seen them up on the ridge, often at night. But they had always disappeared back into the woods by the time we got there.” Who knew there could be so much poetry to be found in agriculture?
Ridge was produced by Erik Hemmendorff, of Swedish outfit Plattform Produktion. The movie is being distributed by Plattform Distribution, and it was supported by the Swedish Film Institute and Eurimages.
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