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Struggling with identity in Blowfly Park

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Screening at the 2015 Scandinavian Film Festival in Australia

Kristian Keskitalo aka ‘Kille’ (Sverrir Gudnason) is an average Joe. As a former hockey player, he’s now become a town has-been trading in his former macho identity for a much softer, caring role as a nursery teacher. His ambition and drive is next to zero, but he idolises his former hockey companion, Alex (Leonard Terfelt). When Alex suddenly disappears after a drunken night out, Kristian is distraught and he begins spiralling out of control.

The film opens with Alex staring into the distance. His stillness is contrasted against the vehicle in the background, working the night shift. His mind appears busy with thoughts, but he just stands silent. All of a sudden a train passes at high speed blocking Alex’s face. The gaps in between the carriages offer fleeting glimpses of Alex; his head rolled back, eyes closed. The train’s actions signify Alex’s current psychological state. After the train has passed, Alex opens his eyes and tears begin to form. We know that something weighs on his mind, but what? He tries to numb his pain with alcohol but it doesn’t appear to solve anything.

The opening scene to Blowfly Park is truly exceptional. The images and scenery convey so much about a character struggling with his identity. When Kristian is introduced, the film offers a stark contrast in identity – an almost female perspective, if you will. Kristian is far more considerate. He offers to drive Alex home even though Alex wants to fight. He wants to take care of him like a mother would her children. This brings in questions of identity, more specifically, what it means to be a male/man. Is Kristian pretending to be ‘one of the guys’ so that he can fit in? Is he simply trying to impress his friend whose behaviour and actions are often questionable? Or is he doing it in order to learn how to behave? These questions and many more surface throughout the film.

Despite having a friend, Kristian is clearly quite socially inept. He appears to be learning as he goes along and, like a teenager, he’s rebelling against society and the norms in order to find his identity. After the disappearance of Alex – something Kristian knows more about than he tells the police – Kristian gets involved in several fights as if to prove his manhood. On the first occasion, Kristian witnesses a group of teenagers bullying a young man. He slowly walks past with his bike, his mind clearly focused on the event. But as the boys continue to pressure the young man, Kristian intervenes and is assaulted in the process. The teenagers steal his bike and leave him defeated.

In order to hold on to his masculinity, Kristian goes on a crusade. He attempts to recover his bike and is blackmailed and assaulted by two young girls; he then feels that he has to tame behaviours in society and convince others of expected social behaviours – he hides a piece of metal piping in a tennis racket case ready to attack anyone who questions his authority. His mission – and destruction of his own identity – is severely painful to watch. He further embarrasses himself by forcing himself into the life of Alex’s family, Diana (Malin Buska) and her son Elias. Now that Alex is gone, Kristian feels he must step up and play the father. He also tries to create a father/son bond with Alex’s father, Berndt (Peter Andersson), something Alex wasn’t particularly good at. It then becomes clear that Kristian is not only trying to become Alex, but perhaps trying to write all of his friend’s wrongs. This is a lot of responsibility for one person to take on, but Kristian truly believes that this must be his purpose in society.

Blowfly Park is a stunning debut from director/writer Jens Östberg. Kristofer Nordin’s fragmented, time-lapse editing is a simple, yet effective technique to convey a fractured and perplexed state of mind. This is complemented by the score and cold and gritty mise-en-scène.

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