Alexander Rynéus, Malla Grapengiesser and Per Bifrost’s documentary entitled Giants and The Morning After is a lyrical tale of the municipality of Ydre located in Östergötland, Sweden. It is a riveting film of audiovisual art that pampers one’s mind, sight and hearing – a truly magnificent piece that reflects on the hardship people are experiencing in the Swedish countryside.
Depopulation and the shortage of opportunities in the countryside have been hot topics for years not only in Sweden but also in other parts of the world, and a tiny bit of temptation is always there to romanticise the everyday struggles people need to overcome, let’s say, in a place with only 3,500 inhabitants. The romantic touch can be found in Alexander Rynéus, Malla Grapengiesser and Per Bifrost’s film as well but the lyrical approach they chose works perfectly when telling the story of Ydre and the individuals living there. The main concern the local public workers have is that the population is decreasing as more and more young people decide to settle down in cities where they can find work more easily. Therefore, it’s always a celebration when a baby is born in Ydre, and they never miss visiting the families and give presents to them; refugees are also welcomed warm-heartedly. Unfortunately, these are not the only challenges the locals are facing: other issues such as the lack of work, the lack of activities children, youngsters and adults can participate in, the obstacles family businesses have as well as the isolation of the place is highlighted, too. And what seems to be the sole solution for all problems is attracting investors to come to Ydre even if that plan seems risky…
If someone had the chance to see both Gabriela Pichler’s latest film entitled Amateurs (Amatörer) set in a small town and Giants and The Morning After can draw many parallels between them. While the former is a depiction of a reality, the latter is the presentation of the reality – to be more specific, an audiovisually beautiful presentation of the reality in Ydre. The silvery voice of the narrator telling the story of the Bule (a giant) and the Ur-kon (a cow) is illustrated by mesmerising images of the people, forests, fields and lakes of Ydre – as if the pages of a storybook is being displayed on the screen. Although the film requires some effort from the audience to get familiar with the characters, the cobweb or relationships are slowly unfolded through conversations, and images are there to enhance the understanding of them. As one might imagine, apparently everyone knows each other, and if not during the week, but at the social events they certainly meet each other. In contrast with the Amateurs, there is no film within the film in the case of Giants and The Morning After, but art and culture are just as important to the local politicians as in Pichler’s film.
Whether the Giants and The Morning After will be able to reach a wider audience outside Sweden or not is questionable, but the universality and the quality of the Alexander Rynéus, Malla Grapengiesser and Per Bifrost’s piece encourage us to believe it has a potential. However, don’t let be fooled by the beauty of images and sounds, listen to the conversations carefully, the hard truth and newly found joy in them.