Swedish high-profile actress Pernilla August, who played the mother of Ingmar Bergman in “The Best Intentions” in 1992 and Anakin Skywalker in “Star Wars”in 1999 and 2002, has made her directorial debut with the glorious yet gloomy, tight and vibrating film “Beyond” ("Svinalängorna", 2010). August won the Nordic Film Prize, a Guldbagge, for Best Director, a big crowd of viewers and maybe another ticket to Hollywood.

Last time Sweden snagged an Oscar nomination was with the dreadful “As It Is In Heaven” (“Så som i himmelen” 2004). Director Kay Pollak then went to California. This time a little help from Millenium series actress, Noomi Rapace, who plays the lead, could act as a trigger for the star-loving Oscar jury, who sadly in this particular category often acts in mysterious ways. Once again Rapace explodes on the screen with subtleness, pent-up anger, and an intense gaze. She plays Leena, a young tense woman with two children and a husband (played by Noomi’s real former husband Ola Rapace) who confronts her childhood memories when her mother calls from the deathbed. Two parallel stories unfold with calm dynamism: Leena as an adult tries to deal with the grief of a lost childhood and at the same time, Leena as a child tries to survive and protect her younger brother as their Finnish parents can’t stop drinking.

ADVERTISEMENT
Volvo Overseas - the ultimate experience

Certain scenes are drowned by pain and caused my heart to skip beat after beat, others are a washed with a sense of false hope streaming onto the screen. There is violence, screams and drunkenness – the residential wing of Svinalängorna suffers with uncontainable misery in other words. “The Scandinavian bleak and Kierkegaard”, that Diane Keaton talks about in Woody Allen’s “Manhattan” (1979), plays out with no mercy in “Beyond” but there is also a sense of reconciliation embedded in the story.

The camera angle is often narrow in the 1970s apartment and it increases a sense of panicky claustrophobia, Rapace’s face in contemporary time reiterates this same panic. Identity, a child’s forced responsibility and letting go of a broken past are hard tasks to deal with but August manages to create a credible approach without loosing grip or using cheap sentimental tricks. Much of it thanks to the marvelous adaption of the original story, the best selling book by Susanna Alakoski and the detailed-oriented set design from the lush 70s. But most of all, the credit goes to the cast. Noomi Rapace is accompanied by extraordinary supporting performances. Tehilla Blad, who also played Rapaces’s child-self in the Millenium films, is powerful in a fragile way, the father, Ville Virtanen is exceptional, and the mother Outi Mäenpää gives the performance of the year. Faye Dunaway, in “Mommie Dearest” (1981), has gotten herself a cinematic sister.

By Niclas Goldberg

The official trailer: Beyond Trailer (Svinalängorna)

Svinalängorna ["Beyond"]
Director: Pernilla August.
Screenplay: Pernilla August, Lolita Ray.
Cinematography: Erik Molberg-Hansen.
Leading actors: Noomi Rapace, Ola Rapace, Outi Mäenpää, Ville Virtanen, Tehilla Blad.
Producers: Helena Danielsson, Ralf Karlsson with Helle Ulsteen/Kamoli Films (DK), Tero Kaukomaa/Blind spot Pictures (FI), Lone Korslund, Peter Bengtsson/Nordisk Film, Ralf Ivarsson/Filmi Skåne, Gunnar Carlsson/SVT. Production: Hepp Film AB/Drakfilm AB
Co-production: Helle Ulsteen, Kamoli Films (DK), Tero Kaukomaa, Blind spot Pictures (FI), Nordisk Film (SW), Nordisk Film & Post production (SW), Nordsvensk Filmunderhållning no7 (SW), Film i Skåne (SW)
International distribution: Trust Nordisk

Our earlier interview with Pernilla August: Pernilla August on Phantoms and Ghosts