If you wish to go to the current Fangoria site, you may click the top logo, "Home" or "News" links. Or click here.
One of the more eye-catching posters on display at
Montreal’s current Fantasia festival has been
the one-sheet for MARIANNE, the debut feature by Swedish writer/director/producer
Filip Tegstedt. The art (see below) is redolent of classic ’80s VHS covers, and
suggests a project born of nostalgia for the shriekers of that era. Instead,
the movie in fact harks back to an earlier tradition of quiet supernatural
dramas, and is another of the many films at Fantasia this year to be as
concerned with the personal as with the paranormal.
Taking a few pages from Swedish folklore, MARIANNE
(world-premiering tonight and encoring Saturday at Fantasia) also seems
inspired by the family and marriage dramas of Tegstedt’s fellow countryman
Ingmar Bergman. Its focal point is Krister Larsson (Thomas Hedengran), a
high-school teacher who has lost his wife in a car accident, leaving him to
raise their teenage daughter Sandra (Sandra Larsson) and their newborn infant
alone. The tragedy has taken a psychological toll on him as well as his
relationship with Sandra, who has taken up with an older boyfriend, Stefan,
nicknamed “Stiff” (Dylan M. Johansson). As Krister’s days become increasingly
troubled, so do his nights, as he is visited nocturnally by a mysterious woman
who makes the most unsettling noises since Kayako in the JU-ON/GRUDGE movies.
Or is this specter just a byproduct of Krister’s stressed psyche?
MARIANNE is one of the few films to play the
is-it-real-or-in-the-mind? game where the answer is legitimately in question
for almost the entire running time. Tegstedt plays the movie less as a
traditional ghost story and more as a portrait of a man on a downward
psychological spiral for whom the “ghost” may be just one symptom. Krister’s
therapist (Peter Stormare, working in his native tongue) believes Krister’s
suffering from “sleep paralysis,” in which his mind wakes up but his body
remains asleep. Or perhaps the eerie figure is a manifestation of guilt, as
Krister had been seeing a lover whose existence is revealed in the film’s very
first scene and developed among the flashbacks Tegstedt carefully places
throughout MARIANNE, and whose appearance seems spookily similar to that of the
female presence tormenting Krister in his slumber. When he eventually confides
in Stefan, a devotee of the occult, Stefan is convinced the being is a “Mare,”
a sort of succubus who preys on the sleeping.
As Tegstedt keeps the possibilities in play throughout
MARIANNE, he resists overplaying the supernatural side of the story and
maintains a down-to-earth tone; even a makeshift exorcism performed by Krister
and Stefan is played matter-of-factly, absent any grandiose visual gestures.
The performances follow suit, with Hedengran holding the compelling center by
understating his protagonist’s emotional anguish. Clearly, Krister has been
neither the best husband nor the best father, yet Tegstedt and Hedengran
maintain sympathy for him despite his flaws. The filmmaker gives generous time
to Sandra’s emotional turmoil as well, and as played by Larsson, she’s far more
than the sum of her Goth appearance and rebellious attitude; though she behaves
in adult ways, she’s also still a child in need of a father.
Lest this all sound too dysfunctional and depressing,
Tegstedt develops a sense of mystery and creeping fear that balance the sadness
and make MARIANNE an absorbing viewing experience. It’s quite an accomplishment
for a first feature, as Tegstedt doesn’t try to impress with stylistic bravura
but rather remains devoted to the emotional truths of his characters and story.
Which is not to say the movie isn’t technically accomplished; with the help of
cinematographer Johan Malmsten, Tegstedt suffuses the proceedings with the
proper grim atmosphere. It’s a thoughtful and mature film, one possessing a few
qualities in common with the Swedish breakout LET THE RIGHT ONE IN, and marks
Tegstedt as a talent to watch on the international scare scene.
JOIN OUR COMMUNITY AND BE THE FIRST TO KNOW ABOUT NEWS, CONTESTS, EVENTS AND MORE!
All contents © 2011 Fangoria Entertainment