Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Tue Apr 10, 2018 4:38 pm 
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The harsh demands of Swedish farm life

Just a typical rural Swedish farm in the Seventies, 1978, to be precise. In this film based on a novel by Tomas Bannerhed, the father, Agne (Reine Brynolfsson), finds his work a struggle. The early scenes of the film are completely wordless. Son Klas (Jacob Nordström), a bird watcher with pretty eyes, hangs (while he can) with Veronika (Saga Samuelsson), the new girl visiting from Stockholm, and has little interest in taking over the place. Gärd (Maria Heiskanen), wife and mother, tries to offer some warmth, but she gets hers sometimes from another man in town. The farm doesn't really belong to Agne, but he has little interest in local developers using a forest attached to the land, or even in adopting modern machinery, little interest in keeping the landowners pleased with him.

Jens Assur, whose feature debute as director-writer-producer this is, arrives as a photojournalist with a good eye: the starkness has an edge of beauty granted by the 35mm camerawork by dp Jonas Alarik. The drab grays have a glow of yellow and purple; the light often sings. And then there are those ravens, who cast interesting shadows across the barn wall. This is small compensation, against the doom-ridden score by Peter Von Poehl. The sound design is sometimes scary; so is the score. If you grew up on a Swedish farm, many seem to think, this will speak to you. Citizen critics on IMDb suggest Swedish farms atmospheres haven't changed so much in subsequent decades, only the size of the land and the machinery. If that's not your background, you may find Ravens a bit stingy in the story line, or just implausibly grim, though the wordless passages are interrupted, if only briefly, by exciting moments. This is Sweden, home of the mournful, and this film fits with local cinematic tradition. At least one of Klas's not-so-distant forebears has killed himself. What will happen to Klas? Or to Agne? Gradually, we find out.

When Agne does something creepy, you wonder if he is a monster or a villain? Stefan Dobroiu argues in [url=""]Cineropa[/url]that, in the layered performance of the experienced Brynolfsson, he's a richly layered character, one of the year's most complex and compelling on film. At least he is not the simple grouch he may seem at first. Klas' idea of a great date night with Veronika is attending a slide lecture on scavenger birds (the speaker is entertaining). That's a droll thought. Ultimately however for some the longish run-time may feel stretched out, there is a sense of inevitability, and, curiously given the anguish, of resolution - and resignation.

Ravens/Koparna, 105 mins., debuted at Toronto Sept. 2017; four other festivals. Screened for this review as part of the San Francisco International Film Festival.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018 at 9:00 p.m. at Roxie Theater
Thursday, April 12, 2018 at 3:15 p.m. at Roxie Theater
Tuesday, April 17, 2018 at 6:15 p.m. at Roxie Theater


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