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by Greg Muskewitz

"Heavy tedium."
2 stars

Stodgy piece of Swedish cinema, likened to the pensive trademark of Ingmar Bergman.

Based on (an apparently) famous set of plays by Lars Norén, Kristian Petri directs the story of two pairs of lovers who coincidentally switch places, on their way to, and derived from, tragedy. Rebecka Hemse and Michael Nyqvist are a married couple in 1989 Stockholm, where Pernilla August and Jonas Karlsson are lovers; the merge takes place when August, a writer, approaches Nyqvist, a publisher, about her transcript the company he works for was sent. He eventually leaves his wife, a nurse, who treats Karlsson for his heroin addiction, and eventually they get together. It takes a lot of time for any of this to get established, and is intercut with scenes from the afterlife of the two women and Nyqvist conversing over what led them there, and the whole journey is a total draining bore. The script is full of character reflection, deluging the dialogue with weighty and endless existential questioning. (Every statement is analyzed to tedious ends. Nyqvist, of his company: “We take that very seriously”/ “Who are we?” Or, “Can you say you love me?”/ “Can I?”/ “Will you say it to me?”/ “It hurts”) Childbearing is subject matter that is often returned to (Hemse couldn’t conceive, they had to adopt; August goes to great lengths to conceive) and there is a startling image of August bloodsoaked from sudden miscarriage, the whole thing well-filmed by Göran Hallberg. And there are some damn solid performances from August (her beauty completely concealed and wasted in The Phantom Menace), Nyqvist and Hemse, but the film is absolutely too cold, too impalpable, too spiritless, and too lassitudinous to have any weight but of that which sinks the viewer.

[See it if you must.]

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originally posted: 02/06/04 07:43:56
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Palm Springs Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Palm Springs Film Festival series, click here.

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