Göteborg International Film Festival – your cultural thermos in the winter darkness

It is safe to assume that few have failed to notice the highlight of the month – the 35th Gothenburg international film festival. For many movie enthusiasts this does not only imply that their long wait is over, but also that their dull collection of movies can be replaced by 10 days of pure cinematic pleasure from all around the world. Taking part of these stories and insights provides alternative and hopeful pictures of how people around the globe lead their lives. These pictures are both completing and nuancing.

Love, sex and relationships may seem like all too frequent and predictable movie themes but even here this film festival manages to incorporate alternative plots that rarely reach the ordinary cinemas. As already known, Realstars is the indefatigable advocate for “fair sex” and many exciting depictions of this message are to be presented. I would like to emphasise two movies about relationships which, in completely different manners, bring us stories of desire, gendered power relations and conventions in ways rarely seen on the silver screen.

I will start with the Swedish movie En gång om året (Eng. Once a year) directed by first-time feature film director Gorki Glasser-Muller. We get to follow a middle aged couple for 24 hours who, despite their strong feelings for each other for the last 30 years, has chosen only to see one another once a year. This is the overall plot (go and watch the movie!).

Restricted love is a common movie theme but what separates this movie from the traditional bunch is a clever escalation of dramaturgy leading up to a given outcome. Up until then the viewer becomes strongly involved in the couple’s struggle between 30 years of neglect and their naive belief in a different future.
The power relationship between the couple is not based on sex, age or status but rather their belief in themselves and love. A refreshing move by the director is his casting choice of a somewhat “trashy” couple – Gunilla Röör and Michalis Koutsogiannakis – whose performances are incredibly present and professional.

The other slightly more easygoing movie is the French film The art of love. The French are notable masters of this genre and this movie is no exception.
We get to follow a number of very different couples but who all share either the inability to express feelings or the inability to constrain them.

In almost every case it is the woman in the relationship who seeks to address the problem through very unconventional methods. The solutions are supposed to be for the better of the two but are largely constructed on the basis of her needs. The portrayal of the women as the leading and calculating partners and the men as the reluctantly accepting ones makes it a lot more fun (and more close to reality?) from a perspective of gender power. Add a sharp dialogue, wonderful actors and countless enjoyable French manners and you get a spot-on feel-good movie.

I felt that I had to watch these two movies after having recently analysed Lilja4ever with my high school students – a film hardly in need of any further introduction to all the Realstars friends.

For those of you who have had a slow movie-start this week I encourage you to go down to Järntorget – there are so many masterpieces yet to explore!

Torbjörn Johansson/Angeredsgymnasiet