In his first article with Nordic Watchlist, we welcome Tim Collison who reviews two Nordic films at the recent Raindance Film Festival.
Raindance Film Festival Nordic Film Reviews
Raindance, the UK’s largest indie film festival, returned to London this year with a full line up of cinematic goodies. Celebrating its 31st year, the festival featured two notable Nordic films, one from Norway the other from Finland. Both with directors making their feature debuts and both having their UK premieres at the festival.
First up was Norwegian drama Storm. Its director Erika Calmeyer has been impressing on Netflix, directing episodes of Young Royals and most recently the Swedish series Tore, which has just started showing in the UK. Storm is a tense and brooding film, which depicts the difficult – and at times out of control – relationship between a mother and her eight-year-old daughter after a tragic incident while on a fishing trip.
While the film was made on a small budget, it punches above its weight with beautiful cinematography and a truly compelling story, that builds as a slow-burn psychological drama. We watch as the mother and daughter try to get their life back together, amid rumours swirling around the small community.
You never quite know where the film is going or what the characters are going to do next. This is in part due to the talents of Calmeyer – who came up with the idea for the film 10 years ago while at film school – but also to the great acting in the mother-daughter relationship.
The single mother, Elin, is played by Ane Dahl Torp, who is arguably now one of Norway’s best actors and has a racked up an impressive list of films include The Wave and The Quake. Ane has an incredible ability to convey so much thought and emotion by simply holding a long stare as her character tries to contend with the increasingly anguished and unpredictable behaviour of her daughter, Storm. It took Calmayer a year and half and over 1000 different castings to find Ella Maren Alfsvåg Jørgensen, who is superb as the title character.
The film goes deeper and darker into its plot and subject matter and its location really helps with this. Elin and Storm live in a wonderful mid-century house in a woodland area and the film has a great relationship with its natural setting. A lot of the scenes were set at dusk or half-light and the film really benefits from the subtle lighting, muted colours and earthy tones.
Storm stirs up feelings of uncertainty, anger, resentment, suspicion and at the end of the film you’re left very much on your own to decide what you think of how the characters have behaved and what the message might be. Impressive first film.
Storm was followed a few days later at Raindance by Palimpsest. Directed by Hanna Västinsalo, the film follows two octogenarians – Juhani and Telle – who meet at an institution where they participate in an experiment to reverse the ageing process. As the two characters get younger as the film plays out, we experience their psychological issues and traumas as the dream of returning to youth inevitably has negative consequences.
The film starts with real promise. It’s a subject that’s been dealt with before by directors, but this film locates itself in the very contemporary issue of the elderly care crisis. And the opening scenes of the institution and strangeness of the treatment experienced by the male character are good. But the film doesn’t really go on to deliver.
The depictions of enjoying youth once again are a little predictable as are the interactions Juhani has with his middle-aged daughter who struggles to cope with having a 20-something dad. It’s hard to like either of the lead characters – and maybe we’re not meant to – but their stories do carry the film well.
Palimpsest is engaging, but it’s not enlightening. The film could have made a lot of interesting and challenging philosophical points about ageing and our obsession with youth, but it doesn’t go that deep.