Wednesday, February 8, 2012

She Monkeys (2011)

She Monkeys • Apflickorna (2011)
She Monkeys • Apflickorna (2011)

Genre: Drama
Director: Lisa Aschan
Starring: Mathilda Paradeiser, Linda Molin, Isabella Lindquist
Language: Swedish
Duration: 83 min.
Rating: 7.4  

When Emma meets Cassandra, they initiate a relationship filled with physical and psychological challenges. Emma does whatever it takes to master the rules of the game. Lines are crossed and the stakes get higher and higher. Despite this, Emma can't resist the intoxicating feeling of total control.

She Monkeys is the feature debut from director Lisa Aschan. It premiered at the 2011 Göteborg International Film Festival, later winning a Crystal Bear in the Generation 14plus section at the Berlinale, and the Best World Narrative Feature at the Tribeca Film Festival.

The film follows Emma (Mathilda Paradeiser) a teenage equestrian vaulter who lives with her single father Ivan (Sergej Merkusjev) and younger sister Sara (Isabella Lindquist).  In trying out with a new team, she quickly catches the attention of the current leader of the pack, the strikingly tall, elegant and self assured Cassandra (Linda Molin). They begin an uneasy relationship brought together by power, attraction, and chaos, but kept apart by their intense competition and mutual desire for control.

Aschan builds a languidly paced, atmospheric and fascinating narrative here, always unpredictable and infused with a great sense of mystery and sexual tension.  There is minimal dialog and nothing is explained about what happened to Emma or her family to make her appear so constantly cold and unemotional. We only have the strong steady performances here from the three young actresses to go on: The impressive Paradeiser as the stoic and impenetrable Emma, of which I'm sure there are a million complex thoughts and feelings swirling through her head, but she has them all carefully controlled and reveals them to no one; the beautiful Molin, as the charismatically seductive Cassandra, the kind of girl who grew up seldom hearing the word no, and knowing just what to do in those rare cases of rejection or disapproval; and the remarkable Lindquist, stealing the show as the innocently inquisitive seven year old Sara, whose subplot story ties the film together with equal amounts of discomfort and hilarity.

The cinematography is superb, with great use of shadows and almost perpetual natural daylight, lingering on suggestively framed shots and fully capturing the athleticism and competitive spirit of the girls' regimented training sessions. There is also an interesting use of ambient music throughout, scary and unsettling in tone, and evoking the feeling that something sinister is present or about to happen.

Overall though, I never quite got emotionally invested in the story, nor do I expect the events shown or questions raised to stay with me for very long. Nevertheless, it's a solid debut from a promising director, and a fine trio of actresses.

Bonjour Tristesse

She Monkeys • Apflickorna (2011)

She Monkeys • Apflickorna (2011)

She Monkeys • Apflickorna (2011)

She Monkeys • Apflickorna (2011)

She Monkeys • Apflickorna (2011)

She Monkeys • Apflickorna (2011)

She Monkeys • Apflickorna (2011)

She Monkeys • Apflickorna (2011)


G said...

Swedish blondes.....gets my vote

d_4 said...

Maybe on a future release. This one doesn't really appeal to me, an it doesn't have anything that needs to be watched, so.. yeah.

Bonjour Tristesse said...

Aha, you've hit on the main difficulty with reviewing foreign films.  When one isn't fluent or familiar with the tone and cadence of the language and must rely solely on subtitles to understand the dialog, then you have only facial expressions and body language to judge the acting by...

Bonjour Tristesse said...

Cool, I hope you do, it's always good to read your thoughts on movies I've reviewed.

Jessica said...

She Monkeys has become a critic darling in Sweden and got a lot of awards at the Swedish Oscar equivalence, "Guldbaggen". I've barely seen anything negative about it, apart from that it wasn't particularly successful at the box office. For my own part I was quite disappointed after all the good stuff I'd heard. Like you I couldn't connect to it emotionally. Unlike you I was far from impressed by the acting, with the exception of the child actor Lindqvist, who was outstanding.

A few other Swedish film bloggers have also been boggled about what the critics found so fantastic about it. Our theory is that they were dazzled by the fact that deNiro gave it praise.

FrontRoomCinema said...

I have this to watch at home. I might actually get around to it this weekend when my family are away. Thanks for the reminder

The Angry Lurker said...

This appeals to me a lot.....

Movie Man Dan said...

I agree about the frustrating lack of backstory etc but the leads were good and the storyline well handled I felt

Bonjour Tristesse said...

Yeah I feel the same way. Though it's interesting that a lot of Swedes disagree.

Thanks for stopping by Dan.

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