Fantasia Festival 2020: Wildland (Kød & blod, 2020)

Wildland (Kød & blod, 2020)

Wildland

Director: Jeanette Nordahl

Cast: Sandra Guldberg Kampp, Sidse Babett Knudsen, Besir Zeciri, Elliott Crosset Hove, Joachim Fjelstrup, Sofie Torp, Carla Philip Roder

Ida moves in with her aunt and cousins after the tragic death of her mother in a car accident. The home is filled with love, but outside of the home, the family leads a violent and criminal life. – IMDB

Wildland is a Danish drama about a family involved in crime witnessed through the eyes of a cousin that moves in after her mother passes away. Through her eyes, Wildland shows the dynamic of the family matriarchy lead by a doting mother who runs her underground business where her three songs help her with the dirty work of chasing down money owed from people and doing some scare tactics. At the same time, Ida starts having to tag along with her cousins even though each one treats her in a different way and slowly accepts her well. As with any family drama, there is a certain level of dysfunction whether its the overbearing love or the protectiveness or a judgement (and disagreement) of the girlfriends. There’s a lot that slowly reveals as the mother’s smile might hide a lot more and everyone has something deeper brewing in them. As Ida gets dragged deeper into this family and this crime world, a new side of her starts emerging as more of her personality comes out as well.

Wildland

Wildland executes the family drama with a lot of details and dialogue as well as the most confused feeling towards the mother character who seems to still treat her boys like children and yet gives them some important tasks. Every single character has their own unique personality. Ida pieces together the film because for the most part, she plays the role of an observer and doesn’t talk too much however she has a lot of little subtle moments that gives her some depth. Where the movie does the best is the story of the mother role played by Sidse Babett Knudsen who knocks it out of the park. Her mother role is a little unsettling as she is very close with her son and incredibly controlling of their every choice in life while also having this power woman sort of role to hold up all of her business.

As with her character, the second point is her dynamic and interaction with each of her boys. The oldest son, Jonas (Joachim Fjelstrup) plays someone who has found his place with his mother who still stays at home and built his own family so has some kind of harmony while being more of a manager role to his brothers. Mads (Besir Zeciri) is the brother seems the most out of control in his own world who plays video games and is a little weird. The last son David (Elliott Crosset Hove) is the plot point that drives a lot of conflict as his mother disapproves of him and yet he can’t seem to break out of his mother’s grasp to have his own life apart of this crime world. David carries a lot of hidden messages in his character and as things start piling up, he starts having some distance. What winds up to be a shocking ending especially on how things close out the story.

As more Danish films pop up in film festivals, its starting to become obvious that there are some upcoming powerhouse actors/actresses and directors in Denmark. Wildland tells what might feel like an expected tale of crime and family drama and yet, there’s a lot of subtlety to the performances and some fantastic visual cues used in the cinematography to boost the scene’s tone and mood. The characters are crafted with a lot of care and still leaves room for its audience to connect some of the dots and delivers some surprises as well. There’s a lot to like about Wildland.

Fantasia Festival 2019: Koko-di Koko-da (2019)

Koko-di Koko-da (2019)

Koko-di Koko-da

Director (and writer): Johannes Nyholm

Cast: Leif Edlund, Ylva Gallon, Peter Belli, Brandy Litmanen, Morad Baloo Khatchadorian

Koko-di Koko-da is a 2019 Swedish-Danish horror fantasy about a couple who tries to reconnect on a camping trip but soon finds themselves stuck in a time loop with an odd entourage attacking them.

When a happy little family, where the couple Elin (Ylva Gallon) and Tobias (Leif Edlund) is still very in love and all enjoy taking their daughter,  goes on a little trip and end up getting a case of food poisoning that results in serious consequences. Three years later, the couple are still dealing with their emotions and decide to go on a camping trip to try to reconnect one last time. However, they end up in a time loop where entourage of three odd people, the leader (Peter Belli), the giant  (Morad Baloo Khatchadorian) and a weird girl, come to humiliate and kill them. As the husband wakes up each time from this nightmare, he tries to find a new way to avoid their tragic death.

Set in a time loop filled with death, humiliation and cheerful uplifting tune in the background, Koko-di Koko-da is strange. In its five or so loops that the story goes through, its a curious trap to say the least. If it wasn’t for the opening and closing sequences, it wouldn’t be quite so easy to link the events together especially why this particular entourage is haunting this couple. Symbolism is a big part of Koko-di Koko-da and it all sprouts in relation to the loss of their daughter. Every element is a part of the couple getting through this emotional trauma and whether the audience connects to those elements will be key to how much the film is appreciated. It can be fairly vague especially when its not only the curious trio that show up but also white cats crossing the path and attack dogs come into the equation. It takes away from the serious emotions between the couple but add this extra element of strangeness and mostly lead through Peter Belli’s over the top leader with this top hat, cane and a bright smile while being equally brutal in his ways.

Most of Koko-di Koko-da’s story revolves around the father and husband role Tobias being the main focus as the person with the knowledge, making his decisions in response to the previous loop, therefore also the one that is judged the most and giving his character most of the development as well. Leif Edlund does a good job with this character, starting with the first loop where he is mostly pathetic and weak, turning selfish and then finally finding the courage to lead the situation. However, the wife character Elin, played by Ylva Gallon isn’t disposable either. While her role is mostly reactive to Tobias and many times questioning his urgency and the reaction to a bad dream, her loop is one that feels much deeper, perhaps symbolizing her pain being on a different level and each going through their own form of torment causing them to fall further from each other.

Koko-di Koko-da is a film worth a lot of discussion. Its vague in its portrayal and symbolism. There are a lot of between and beyond the lines interpretations of each element. Its time loops while around five times or so runs the entire segment each time. Despite its changes each time, it does feel slightly repetitive. Only just slightly with one or two loops. However, there are some great elements to talk about that add charm. One of them is the pairing it with this repeating Koko-di Koko-da song that is very cheery children’s music. The second is 2 segments of story shown as a little theatre made out of paper cut bunny family projected on the theatre which is a child-like way to present a story that draws parallels to the reality which is extremely charming.

At the end of the day, Koko-di Koko-da is not for everyone. Its not a long film but it has a lot of depth. Perhaps one that is a bit too ambitious for its own good depending on its audience.

 

Festival du Nouveau Cinema Wrap-up: Triple Feature

I don’t usually do double features for any movies that I see at Festivals, let alone triple features, however after having a hard time really fleshing out my thoughts and the festival already behind us almost 2 weeks, I decided that these three films that I saw at Festival du Nouveau Cinema actually is a great fit together as it looks at teens and friendships and coming of age in one way or another. All of them have a snippet of the lives of these characters in all three stories.

Sticks and Stones (2018)

Brakland Sticks and Stones

Director: Martin Skovbjerg

Cast: Jonas Bjerril, Vilmer Trier Brogger, Natalia Reyes, Patricia Schumann, Emma Sehested Hoeg, Benjamin Kitter, Laufey Eliasdottir

Simon arrives in Vesterby from Copenhagen. He is an outsider in a brand new place and alone until he meets Bjarke – Vesterby’s alpha male and heir to the local speaker factory. The two start challenging each other in intimate and transgressive actions as they forge a friendship. But when embezzlement forces Vesterby’s speaker factory to close, the town is bereaved of its livelihood, and Bjarke’s family is blamed. The anger thrust upon him by the locals triggers the beast in Bjarke, and Simon is faced with either having to turn away or save his friend from self-destruction. – IMDB

Its hard to put into words why I felt that Sticks and Stones is a really great film. In fact, I had such a blast being captivated by this friendship that started quite abruptly through being paired up for a project. Comparing everyday lives of grown-ups and the people around them to apes. At the same time, boys will be boys and these two definitely had their share of shenanigans as they go from a creative angle to going overboard in their video project. At the same time, reflecting possibly their feelings and contained emotions in their personal life. The two characters draw a parallel to what is going on in their lives and explains why their friendship works but it also highlights the differences in some friends cross our lives for a moment but can’t stay because of whatever reason and in this case, its a toxicity. Everyone sees it but themselves and you choose to put them behind or wait for them to constantly hurt you. Everyone has gone through friends like this, and its probably because of that, it resounds to me.

In the end, Sticks and Stones was able to channel some very intense feelings in whichever endeavors they were portraying. There is a lot of thought in using their documentary style filming for class and meshing it with the traditional filming as we watched the film unfold. There’s a lot of youth experiences and emotions especially with teens that go through sudden loss and other hard times. The acting is raw and it has to go to these young main actors, Jonas Bjerril and Vilmer Trier Brogger. There are situations of being a newcomer, being an alpha male, young love, family issues and so many conflicting issues that take these two for such a ride and in the end, one of  them needs to make a decision. Let me tell you, this film was a subtle hit for me. I didn’t really think I connected with these two so much as some of the things were over the top but in the final scenes, there was so much there that did hit me really hard emotionally.

Tourism (2018)

tourism

Director (and writer): Daisuke Miyazaki

Cast: Nina Endo, Sumire

Fun fact is that after I saw this movie, I have talked and tried to summarize this film to at least two other people and it turns out sounding so basic that it doesn’t quite seem to work as a movie.

During the opening message to the audience, Daisuke Miyazaki hoped that his film will make the viewers want to go on a trip or an adventure (I can’t remember the exact word). Tourism falls into this fun like day adventure. Just like how we see Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist is very fun to watch, Tourism sees Nina, one of the girls on this trip to Singapore who loses her friend and her cellphone and ends up wandering around the city and meeting interesting characters but also being immersed in the culture and everyday lives. The way Miyazaki brings to life the characters is to take some time in the beginning to highlight these roommates and how the trip came out.

tourism

One of the best moments which hooked me in completely was how they chose their destination. There’s a joy in travelling with a companion (that you get along with) and seeing the landmarks but also another one when you wander the city alone and see the beauty and detail of the culture. That is the power of travelling and the adventure of communicating and meeting new people and learning more about the world around us. Sure, the story doesn’t sound like its anything intriguing but sometimes with all the technology and everything available at our fingertips, we forget the rush of beauty of the simple things in life. The hours Nina spends searching to get back to her friend or the hotel is not only a message about our reliance on technology but also the most entertaining parts of the film.

The premise might be simple but sometimes its in the simple joys that do pack in a lot of genuine feelings. This one is a pleasant surprise.

Firecrackers (2018)

firecrackers

Director (and writer): Jasmin Mozaffari

Cast: Michaela Kurimsky, Karena Evans, Callum Thompson, David Kingston, Tamara Leclaire, Scott Cleland, Dylan Mask

Lou and her best friend Chantal plan to get out of their isolated, run-down town and move to a city far, far away. When Chantal’s unstable and possessive ex violates her during a night of partying, the girls decide to exact their revenge on him through a night of vandalism and debauchery. The consequences of their actions are devastating, threatening the girls’ chances of ever leaving. The more Lou fights tooth-and-nail to save her friendship and hold onto her dreams, the more she spins out of control as she begins to realize that freedom will come at a high cost. – IMDB

I still remember the reason why I added this movie into my viewings despite its late hour and knowing that I had to run home in a hurry to catch the last bus home as it was compared to Fish Tank which is one of the movies that I like a lot. To be honest, there are some parallels to the film but in some ways, this one is a different movie. In fact, if you took something like Sticks and Stones and used it in a friendship between girls, you might arrive at this one. However, this one is about two best friends who want to leave behind their messed up lives in this small town. What turns out to be a perfect plan ends up having these bad turn of events. Lou is the main character here and we follow a lot of her character development with each road block that occurs and we see this coming of age development as she sees clearer the consequences of what she is leaving behind as well as the tough decisions between her friendship and also the teen angst as well as the sudden aggression or lack of thought in her actions.

Firecrackers takes on this snippet of Lou and Chantal’s life and their friendship in a genuine and raw way. It never feels over dramatic and honestly, makes us truly feel for these two girls on screen. It can remind us of the hurdles of growing up and wanting more and fighting for everything you can to make things better. There are bad decisions and bad life choices but its all part of growing up and these girls have it particularly hard but at least, they have their friendship.

This wraps up this triple feature and the Festival du Nouveau Cinema’s last three films I saw.
In some ways, this was the best way to talk about them as there isn’t much to say but rather its a movie experience.
There’s a lot to love about these films for both their similarities and their differences as it embraces this true and genuine snippet in each of these stories.