Screened at CPH:DOX 2014

CPHDOX’s main job is to show the cream of the crop of documentary filmmaking each year, but the festival also shows some older films, and many films of a more hybrid nature. Anna Odell’s The Reunion is both of those things. The film, which premiered last year at the Venice Film Festival, before becoming the biggest audience success at last years DOX-fest, and then winning two Guldbagge-awards for best film and best script, consists of two parts: An imagining of what could have happened if Anna Odell had been invited to the 20-year reunion party for the class in which she spent nine hellish years as a victim of bullying. And reconstructions of what happened when Anna Odell showed the first part to those exact classmates who had done the bullying as kids, and as adults didn’t have the guts to invite her to a reunion.

The first part is cringeworthy like Thomas Vinterbergs great The Celebration was. Odell plays herself, with an unsparing glare fastened on the classmates doing their best to shrink away. First she gives a speech on her experience as a ‘loser’ in the hierarchy. At that point, some class mates thinks she’s brave and gave them food for thought. But then one of the cool people stands up, and gives one of those speeches on how special the class was, and on a great hiking trip in sixth grade. Anna immediately stands up again and attacks him for his words, mentioning how she was bullied on that trip, even kicked in the crotch. At that point, it’s clear to everyone, that there will be no way out of this painful situation, and everything just goes further downhill from there.

The second part is easier to watch. Some of the classmates meet up, watches the film, says that they understand that what happened was wrong. Others does their best not to meet with her, and seemingly haven’t grown a bit. Due to this, it’s actually some of the more sympathetic characters who gets attacked the most by Odell. This is one of the greatest strengths of the film, and the reason why it will hit everyone in the gut, whether they were a bully, a popular kid who didn’t stand up to the bullies, or an awkward loser, who followed along with the rest, or perhaps lashed out at those even less popular. I imagine that will be almost everyone. Odell points out two guys as being the worst: the awful, awful kid, who told her she should just kill herself, and who grew up to be an awful, awful man, whom the rest of the classmates shakes their head at now. But also the popular kid, whose support would have meant the world, but who never did anything. That guy is trying to understand, but clearly irked at being attacked, even though Odell freely admits he did nothing wrong. This reviewer was transported back to his own childhood, wondering about a number of episodes, and his own roles on both side of the divide. It’s not a fully pleasant experience. But there can be no doubt, that with this, her first feature film, Anna Odell puts herself up there with Ruben Östlund (Play, Force Majeure) as another young, provocative, Swedish filmmaker of the finest order.