Jesper Ganslandt's "Falkenberg Farewell" The Poetry of Loss By João Antunes

in 50th IndieLisboa- Lisbon Festival of Independent Film

by Joao Antunes

The first movie by the young Swedish writer-director Jesper Ganslandt, Falkenberg Farewell (Farval Falkenberg) belongs to some very well known film categories, if not necessarily to genres — the coming-of-age movie, the autobiographical study, the adult male’s boyish reflections on life. However, as in life, no two stories are that similar. But that’s not even what makes Falkenberg Farewell such a unique film. What distinguishes it from the other movies that have dealt with such subjects, besides the way it was produced, comes from its spirituality, and the cinematic poetry it uses to speak us about loss. And this is a theme we all know by heart.

Falkenberg Farewell is about five young guys who spend the last summer of their youth in Falkenberg, on the Swedish coast. Falkenberg is also the homeland of Jesper Ganslandt, the author of the movie. And Jesper is the name of one of the characters, portrayed by Ganslandt himself. These factors, which are not at all coincidences, reveal the organic structure of the movie.

In reality, it all began with a group of friends who, after spending so much time talking to one another about their hopes and despairs, decided to capture them on film. Ganslandt wrote the screenplay with Fredrik Wenzel, who was also the cinematographer, but each character has also elements of the actors who portray them. There is one who wants to stay in the village forever; another with plans to make money; one who deals with a father with whom he does not have any kind of connection, and another who writes all his thoughts in a diary.

And there is one who isn’t going to see the summer’s end: For a long time, Sweden held the unfortunate honor of having Europe’s highest suicide rate, so Ganslandt and his group of friends most likely have some knowledge of what they are writing about. But finally, the most impressive aspect of Falkenberg Farewell is its cinematic form. The camera runs after the characters, but we are not sure Ganslandt is aware of the Dardennes’ style of filmmaking. The lyrical nature of grass, water or sand holds the same kind of appeal of certain Russian classics of the 20s and the 30s, but it’s almost certain that the director, who likes to say he’s never been to film school, did not see them.

So, it’s legitimately new, what we see in Falkenberg Farewell: a film sprung from the earth. Beautifully crafted, but primitive, in a way. The beauty comes entirely from its spirituality, not from self-indigent cinematic style. In a time when audiences and film critics alike long for something different every time the lights go down, there’s finally one movie that is: Falkenberg Farewell.