Last Updated: March 29, 2013By Tags:

(BY ALI NADERZAD) Swedish slices of life revealing Sweden’s libertarian sexual mores is how I would describe this UCR offering which screened today at Cannes. Patriarchal family life, a principled bus driver who stops his bus until a problem is resolved among the passengers, two young girls on a perpetual sexual dare, men of questionable sexual orientation. Oestlund’s camera shows us these vignettes without a whiff of emotion. These people just are this way, he tells us, but keep on watching, maybe something will happen (maybe you could learn something). But what, exactly? The film itself reminds of Sweden’s reputation for being polished, antiseptic, even. Sequences separated by a fade-to-black follow each other neatly. Oestlund’s camera sits motionless behind a fence, in a field afar, behind a glass door. Is life’s romance missing here? There’s nothing evocative about Oestlund’s images although a vague undertow of fatalism ensures we keep watching. After a night of drinking, the two teenaged girls who were doing sexy poses for the camera earlier end up on the side of a street somewhere, one’s lying inertly on the ground after throwing up. She gets in a stranger’s car and rides away. At a school, one instructor witnesses another brusquely handling a young boy. She discusses it with some reluctant colleagues during a break. Oestlund’s camera observes the proceedings, letting us in on the act and consequently turning us into voyeurs. The director’s message isn’t clear nor are his intentions. He seems to be using his camera as a window onto a world which we might not care much about. And while the subtext of liberated sexuality and slip-ups could serve to thicken the sauce a little, the film is so diluted that nothing takes.

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