Dark and Uncompromising

in 39th Göteborg Film Festival

by Jon Asp

Måns Månsson’s dark and uncompromising drama The Yard opened this year’s Göteborg Film Festival and was among the most interesting titles competing for the prestigious Nordic Dragon Award. The Yard has also been selected for the Forum section at Berlinale, to some extent known for its bold and challenging selections.

Last year Måns Månsson won the Mai Zetterling Grant at the Göteborg Film Festival. Seldom has the prize had a more fitting winner. Like Mai Zetterling – a visionary and lone wolf who made some remarkable films in the 1960s, partly reminiscent of the works of Ingmar Bergman – the highly cultured Månsson is known as an unpredictable and original observer who likes to go his own way.

That said, Måns Månsson is also a filmmaker (and a celebrated cinematographer) known for his consistent personal style: anthropological and quietly political, his films subtly examine human loneliness and the structures of authority.

Månsson likes to explore the margins of film. With multi-layered combinations of subject and aesthetics – such as his Guldbagge-nominated cinéma vérité portraits The Kinch (2005) and Mr Governor (2008), or the study of an obsessive detective Roland Hassel (2012) – he enjoys defying our expectations.

No surprise then that Månsson chose to embark upon The Yard, his film version of author Kristian Lundberg’s autobiographical study of the hard grind of working life in the southern Swedish port of Malmö.

The Yard features a struggling poet and critic (skillfully played of Anders Mossling) who finds himself unemployed, after having written a harsh review of one of his own books. When the film begins we see him unenthusiastically reading from his own book in front of a handful of listeners, even less enthusiastic. He decides to visit an antiquarian to give away the rest of his latest edition of poems. Although for free, it turns out the antiquarian doesn’t have room for more than five copies.

In an attempt to maintain his position in lower middle class society as the sole provider for a teenage son, the poet takes a job in Malmö’s transshipment port for new cars. ‘Yarden’ is the actual name of a loading station for passenger cars in the port of Malmö. Hundreds of cars with uniform white protective covers are parked there in neat rows stretching as far as the eye can see.

The Yard is a cold, desolate place where solidarity between the workers has been eradicated. As the only native Swede apart from the management, he is met with suspicion from his co-workers, none more memorably so than in a car scene with the intermittent backdrop of Demis Roussos’ 70s hit “Forever and Ever” playing on the stereo.

Here Månsson excels in one of his directing landmarks: as a humanist and as an understated humorist filmmaker. And also, it is something to remember from this year’s Göteborg Film Festival.

Edited by Steven Yates