New Nordic films on point. Icy and neat.

Amatöörit (2018)

Using cellphones and selfie sticks, two high school girls document their declining provincial town in the loosely knit dramedy Amateurs, winner of the best Nordic film at [Gothenburg Film Festival 2018]. As in her prizewinning feature debut Eat Sleep Die, Swedish helmer Gabriela Pichler mixes social commentary and poignant humor and makes engaging use of affecting, non-pro performers. Setting the action against a backdrop of globalization and the evolving multicultural makeup of Europe, Pichler and co-screenwriter Jonas Hassen Khemeri (the acclaimed Swedish novelist and influential editorial writer) provocatively question the nature of images and the people who create them as well as assumptions made by Nordic Swedes about fellow citizens of color. […] [T]his energetic sophomore film […] takes as a given the changing face (and faces) of Sweden. As with Eat Sleep Die, Pichler takes time to show the working class at work, making visible what is normally invisible
Screenings

The Charmer (2017)

The title of Milad Alami’s striking debut The Charmer might describe the film itself. And on the surface it is indeed a gentle, well-mannered and elegant affair, but its caustic undertow, which becomes increasingly apparent, ends up making the viewer angry about a world that seems hell-bent on finding divisions where there need be none. Tracing the struggles of Esmail, an Iranian immigrant in Denmark, to become a Danish citizen by using the perhaps misguided strategy of sleeping with many women, The Charmer is an elegantly reflective and uncomfortable denouncement of the life Esmail has had inflicted upon him – a distorted, inverted life in which the shattering phrase, “I can’t marry you, because I love you,” rings horribly and absolutely true. […] Ardalan Esmaili […] imbues the character with a haunted fragility, never allowing the viewer to forget that he’s the victim of an unjust system which, having consigned
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Euphoria (2017)

Forming one of the most successful Swedish duos of recent times, Stockholm-born director and playwright Lisa Langseth and Gothenburg native actress Alicia Vikander have had an ongoing professional relationship for the past seven years. They started to collaborate in Pure (2010), which was the debut feature for both, and later in Langseth’s sophomore effort, Hotell [HIFF 2014]. Since then, Vikander has won an Academy Award for The Danish Girl ([2015] and launched her own production company, Vikarious. After a long period apart, Emilie (Eva Green) reunites with her younger sister, Ines (Vikander), a photographer who lives in New York. They both embark on a trip to Europe that will involve an unexpected series of events. Emilie will ask her sister to join her at a secluded mansion ensconced deep in a forest. Upon their arrival, they will be welcomed by Marina (Charlotte Rampling), who runs the establishment and reveals that
Screenings

The Guilty (2017)

Tom Hardy in Locke meets Halle Berry in The Call sounds like the kind of absurd pitch you’d hear from an over-zealous fictional producer in a broad Tinseltown satire – yet it’s not entirely the wrong number for The Guilty, a high-concept, low-budget and skilfully muscle-tensing Danish thriller […]. Anchored by a performance of sturdy, simmering resolve by the reliable Jakob Cedergren, as an emergency police dispatcher who picks up on a kidnapping case with more than meets the ear, Gustav Möller’s short, taut debut feature never leaves the claustrophobic confines of the call center, but builds a vivid aural suspense narrative through the receiver, all while incrementally unboxing the visible protagonist’s own frail mental state. […] Cedergren carries the whole with tight-nerved physical and vocal intensity, progressively externalizing the rage of a character who tries his best not to be read; it’s his most generous showcase since Thomas Vinterberg’s
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The Heart (2017)

The heart wants what it wants, but does not get – this is the premise of Swedish actress-director Fanni Metelius’s debut The Heart, about a young photographer Mika and her musician boyfriend Tesfay who are madly in love, yet cannot seem to make their relationship work. […] While The Heart treads familiar ground, Metelius’s directorial vision is assured and the film’s packaging trendy. The net result is an engaging portrait of a modern-day Swedish relationship, whilst carrying some strong messages about female sexuality and independence. […] The Heart chronicles the progressive development of the romantic relationship between Mika (starring Metelius herself) and Tesfay (Ahmed Berhan): from hanging out together as classmates in art school, to casual dating, to moving in together in Stockholm and the subsequent giddy honeymoon phase. But the cracks begin to emerge when Tesfay spends more time playing video games on a couch than he does talking
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The Raft (2018)

Back in the mists of 1973, it seemed a pretty novel idea for an anthropologist to place 11 demographically diverse strangers on a bare-bones raft for 100 days, and task them with crossing the Atlantic Ocean as tempers flare and sexual sparks fly between them. 45 years later, the so-called Acali Experiment sounds like a tired premise for the reality-TV machine’s umpteenth rejig of the Big Brother formula. The surprisingly short leap from radical academic study to lurid exploitation is navigated with wit, sensitivity and rueful social awareness in Swedish director Marcus Lindeen’s gripping debut feature The Raft. Winner of the top documentary prize at Copenhagen’s CPH:DOX festival [2018], the film deftly mines the tension between perspectives past and present, playing the contemporary reflections of the Acali Experiment’s surviving subjects – most of them women – against the defensive, ethically questionable observations of the project’s late Spanish-Mexican founder Santiago Genoves.
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The Swan (2017)

The adult world can be hard to understand when you’re nine. This isn’t an uncommon theme in cinema, but Ása Helga Hjörleifsdótirr’s bold debut feature takes it further. When you’re nine, it can be difficult to understand yourself. Sól (Grima Valsdóttir) doesn’t know why she steals things and causes trouble. She has a concept of right and wrong but her own motives are more obscure – sometimes she just follows her instincts and then people are angry. Now her mother’s despair has led to her being sent away. It’s unlikely that you’ve seen a more resentful looking child than Valsdóttir, but her range becomes apparent as the story develops and Sól experiences complex feelings for the farmhand, also having to come to terms with the fact that adults might not know what they’re doing either. It’s that forceful central performance that really makes The Swan special, together with Martin Neumeyer’s
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Under the Tree (2017)

Good fences make very bad neighbors in Icelandic writer- director Hafsteinn Gunnar Sigurðsson’s black-frost comedy of suburban mores. It has the escalating, claustrophobic structure of the darkest farce […]. In the course of Icelandic writer-director Hafsteinn Gunnar Sigurðsson’s memorably mordant third feature, savage black comedy passes almost imperceptibly into stunned, visceral tragedy – like a laugh turning in the throat and coming out as a choke. Charting an initially familiar battle of across-the-fence attrition between bad neighbors in polite surroundings, Sigurdsson gradually takes petty bourgeois tensions to alien, gasp-worthy extremes […]. Sigurðsson and co-writer Huldar Breiðfjörð’s Chablis-dry script deftly staggers conflict not just across domestic walls, but between them, with points of argument ranging from patently absurd to distinctly raw. […] Talented, country- hopping cinematographer [Monika] Lenczewska […] opts for about the most washed-out palette available in each frame a half-erased palette that initially seems limiting but eventually connotes the
Screenings