Fucking Åmål (1998)
Sweden / Swedish
"Jag ska aldrig mer bli ihop med nån. Jag ska bli celibat. "Two teenage girls in small-town Sweden. Elin is beautiful, popular, and bored with life. Agnes is friendless, sad, and secretly in love with Elin.
It's the same in Sweden
With 'Welcome to the Dollhouse,' Todd Solondz injected his portrait of
the adolescent experience with such uncompromising nastiness and
bitterness that it became almost alien. Lukas Moodysson's debut, 'Show
Me Love,' rectifies this with a more balanced and sensitive approach.
Less stylized than Tolondz's film and less self-important than
'American Beauty,' 'Show Me Love' relinquishes some of the intense
subjectivity that compromised those other two films and emerges as
altogether more touching. Shot on 16mm in cinema verité style, it has
more in common with Truffaut's '400 Blows' and 'Small Change.'
The central character is Agnes, secretly a lesbian and in love with
Elin, who is the equivalent of Mena Suvari's "high school whore" in
'American Beauty'; precociously beautiful and with a reputation for
promiscuity, she's actually a virgin who's just as confused about her
image and sexuality as Agnes and as Jordan, the awkward moped-driving
wallflower who idolizes her. The affiliation-minded war zone of high
school yields an experience just as painful as the one depicted in
'Welcome to the Dollhouse,' but it's even more recognizable -- even to
an American viewer. This experience, of high school life in a suburban
town, is a universal one.
Most admirably, Moodysson's film is only 80 minutes in length and
manages a more thorough and accurate survey of the kind of
personalities found in any such school. It contrasts the surface of
these personalities with the realities from which they're projected,
and it effortlessly achieves the right tone. The parents are not
uncaring, not absent, and not incidental, and the dynamic amongst
friends and siblings is well accounted for. As a debut, it's coarse in
spots, perhaps deliberately so, and it may seem a bit simplistic in the
way the movie is essentially a line between point A and point B, but
there's a great deal of nuance and compassion here. The movie doesn't
revel in unpleasantries in the way that 'Welcome to the Dollhouse'
seems designed to make the audience squirm. There's a lot of
uncomfortable stuff here, but it's not amplified, and it's lifted
directly from real life experience. Watching the film, one can
understand why so many "young adults," as they're called in America,
are suicidal, violent, prone to substance abuse, dangerously
self-conscious, sexually immature, and ultimately facing empty lives,
checkered by decisions made to appease expectations. In these
teenagers, there's the somber echo of the adults they will become.
Skillfully, too, Moodysson hits the bullseye in establishing the
characters' intellects and egos; whether smart or not, they carry
themselves in a particular manner, struggle between complicity with
social norms and questioning them, and speak with a
semi-articulacy/inarticulacy that faithfully represents the way actual
high schoolers express themselves.
Moodysson also presents a more tender and accurate, if maybe slightly
superficial, examination of budding adolescent sexuality and
self-discovery, with both the pangs of sexual anticipatory anxiety and
the pain of knowing that a public sexual image is expected of you in
this environment, that sexual activity is to be advertised (often by
proxy) and not respected as private. Also explored is the frustration
of living in an unrefined suburban community, the kind that makes being
different all the more difficult. Moodysson shows the consequences of
cruelty and the fact that individuals of this age are not likely to
consider those consequences, and that cruelty simply breeds cruelty.
All of this, and the movie is perfectly bittersweet, with one
heartstopping backseat kiss.
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