Mishmash in Stockholm

in 23rd Stockholm Film Festival

by Dragan Jurak

Stockholm International Film Festival is known as the biggest film festival of northern Europe. The 23rd edition of the festival justified that reputation. The FIPRESCI jury focused on the Open Zone program: a selection of ‘“groundbreaking directors making their first, second or third feature film.” This wildly diverse section included “acclaimed feature films from the most exciting directors in contemporary cinema” and films that had won the most prestigious festival awards.

Open Zone was structured like a film revue or movie parade. The selection included the winner at Cannes (Michael Haneke’s ”Amour”), the Berlin winner (”Caesar Must Die”/”Caesar deve morire” by Paolo and Vittorio Taviani), the winner of the Jury Grand Prix at Berlin (”Just the Wind”/”Csak a szél” by Bence Fliegauf), the winner of Best Actress at Berlin (”War Witch” by Kim Nguyen), the winner of Best Director at Cannes (Carlos Reygadas for ”Post Tenebras Lux”), and so on.

The festival showed the new films of eminent auteurs, such as ”Everyday” by Michael Winterbottom, ”Holy Motors” by Leos Carax, ”The Master” by Paul Thomas Anderson, ”Like Someone in Love” by Abbas Kiarostami, ”Flight” by Robert Zemeckis, ”Outrage Beyond” (”Autoreiji: Biyondo”) by Takeshi Kitano, ”Pieta” by Kim Ki-duk, ”Rust and Bone” (”De rouille et d’os”) by Jacques Audiard, and ”The We and the I” by Michel Gondry.

But there was also a selection of first feature films, such as ”Another Woman’s Life” (”La vie d’une autre”) by Sylvie Testud and ”Arbitrage” by Nicholas Jarecki, as well as films by lesser-known directors such as ”A Few Hours of Spring” (”Quelques heures de printemps”) by Stéphane Brizé and ”Blancanieves” by Pablo Berger. So the Open Zone selection ranged from Richard Gere and Denzel Washington (the stars of ”Arbitrage” and ”Flight”) to hardcore arthouse films.

It is hard to make a shortlist of the films that stood out in this program of generally outstanding films, but the list of “smaller”, lesser-known films might include, in alphabetical order, ”A Few Hours of Spring”, ”Everyday”, and ”Like Someone in Love”…

”A Few Hours of Spring” is a delicate story of a dying mother and her son, both weary of life’s battles. Even when the film deals with the heavy subject of assisted suicide and euthanasia, Brizé doesn’t lose his foothold on everyday life, or on life itself. Winterbottom’s ”Everyday” is similar in some ways to the Brizé film. Not only does it depict the everyday nature of life in a lower-class English family, but it does so in an emotionally delicate way. Winterbottom clearly loves his characters, even when he doesn’t idolize them in the manner of, say, Ken Loach – another distinguished leftist English director.

There are also some stylistic and social similarities between ”A Few Hours of Spring”, ”Everyday”, and ”Like Someone in Love”, the Japanese film from Iranian filmmaker Kiarostami. In the latter film, what is fascinating is the ease of Kiarostami’s venture into Japanese cinema and Japanese culture. Along with Ang Lee, a director who operates over three continents and two centuries, Kiarostami is becoming a major intercultural and international filmmaker. His Italian production, ”Certified Copy”, was a move in this direction, and ”Like Someone in Love” confirms this.

In short, amongst “big” films and multiplex movies, established film directors and Hollywood’s biggest stars, the Open Zone contained a considerable number of small and “pure” festival films.

Edited by Lesley Chow