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A Bit of Disappointment Spiced Up with Some Greatness: Swedish Shorts at the Göteborg Film Festival 2018

Short films are getting more and more relevant in the field of cinema, probably because it’s cheaper to make them. And while some of them show originality and are worth watching, some of them are definitely not. This is the case regarding some sections of the Swedish short film programme have been shown at the Göteborg Film Festival this year.

Whereas the Swedish short films presented in the sections entitled Through Time and Space and Labour and Leisure were rather disappointing, the ones in Hyperconnected Society were more or less a feast for the eyes and ears. All three sections showed a real diversity in terms of genres and themes, still, the animations always stood out from the rest and were directed mostly by women. One might say that film-makers working with animations have more freedom and space to create, but those films require more energy from the audience. It’s more difficult for viewers to accept the film as an alternative universe, a kind of reality, and identify with the characters. There has to be something very special or outstanding in them that makes the viewers fully committed to the motion picture and doesn’t let them go until the very end. Having said that, some live-action films – both documentaries and fictional works – showcased high quality, meanwhile, most of them were either way too long, too pretentious with the technicalities, or were another example of a story showed hundreds of time already or stories that do not evoke any feelings in the audience. Sometimes the content outweighed all the other aspects of the film and the narrative was rather fragmented but not on purpose.

The animations Mattpiskerskan, Nästa station, Vi bara lyder, Superbarbara: The Beginning might not tell very original stories, but it was a real treat to watch them because of the techniques used and the balance of humour and seriousness in them. Anna Erlandsson’s Mattpiskerskan is dedicated to her granny who could easily defeat others playing sports like tennis thanks to her stamina and techniques shown when beating the rugs. The animation is only four minutes long but has everything the viewers want: humour, catharsis and, of course, it reminds them all of their own grannies. Miriam Renting’s Nästa Station is a take on dating in the online world, where you can’t stop over-thinking or swiping. Within seven minutes, viewers get to see all the clichés and deep down they all know what happens next, but the characters’ clumsiness and familiar actions and thoughts make them smile, laugh and sigh at once. Erik Holmström and Fredrik Wenzel’s Vi bara lyder is probably most understood by Swedes and foreigners living and working in Sweden, as it is about Arbetsförmedlingen, Sweden’s Public Public Employment Agency. The characters are puppets of some sort and all have someone move them around. The main character is a researcher who is working on a project, and therefore he interviews the not so enthusiastic staff, whose work might not be perfect, but, of course, there is always an explanation, and bureaucracy is omnipotent. The nearly 30-minute-long piece feels actually somewhat long, but its pace perfectly suits the setting. It not only mocks the agency, which has received many negative reviews in Sweden over the past few years, but also draws attention to the problems such as the lack of manpower and resources within the agency. Boonsri Tangtrongsin’s Superbarbara: The Beginning is about Barbara, a superhero, who saves the world from Big Brother, consumerism – literally speaking, from the screens that have full control of every living being. Human beings finally wake up and realise that the world they live in is a prison because of the screens that dictate them what to do. At its core, it is really about manipulation and power, and the rise of humankind – and all of this happens within eleven minutes.

 

Besides these animations, the documentary Energi, och att fånga den, and two fiction films, Ahmed & Markus and Proletären need to be mentioned. These three pieces are very different in tone and deal with different subjects, but all three discuss basic human emotions: love and fear. While Peter Magnusson’s Energi, och att fånga den sometimes loses track in terms of the story, the music always there to win over the audience. Ahmed & Markus follows two boys mentioned in the title, and the latter bullies the former in school. A well-known situation with all the reasons viewers might expect, still the first shot of the ending really hits the right note. The only problem is that there are more shots to come. Jakob Arevärn’s Proletären is the story the audience has seen probably hundreds of time but still finds it funny. It does have a potential and please the expectations. The acting is truly superb in it, and that is what elevates the film to a higher level.

Barbara Majsa

Barbara is a journalist, editor and film critic. She usually does interviews with film-makers, artists, designers, and writes about cinema, design and books.