Saturday, 17 October 2009

burrowing (w&d henrik hellström, fredrik wenzel)

Burrowing is the kind of film for which film festivals are made. This is not going to be on general or even marginal release in the cine plazas of Great Britain anytime soon. It's a slow/ meditative/ ponderous (delete as appropriate) film which is part Swedish social realism and part essay on the thin line between nature and civilisation.

The film follows four characters to varying degrees as they drift around a low rise Swedish housing estate which borders some woods. One seemingly cracks up, grabs a canoe, and paddles off into the distance never to be seen again. Another, an immigrant who tries to stab fish in a stream, breaks into a Lidl carpark, never to be seen again. The third is a young boy, who also narrates (although his role as narrator, established at the start, seemingly fizzles out as the film unfolds) who seems to have an anti-social streak which is never developed and ends up going awol in the woods. The last character, the most charismatic, is a man who is never seen without his young child, usually in his arms. We learn he doesn't have keys to his home, which he shares with his parents. There's no sign of the mother. At one point he picks up a canoe paddle and assaults a neighbour with it, before immersing himself in a lake with his son, the fear of death by drowning endowing the scene with a fearsome tension.

The four characters don't really have narratives, and their non-narratives never overlap. This is whimsical cinema, composed of elegiac crane shots and a roving, spying camera. The voiceover is hacked together from Thoreau quotes. There are moments of beauty, and moments of torpor. However, the scenes where the man, cradling his son as he stumbles through the forest or immerses himself in a lake, have a strange power to them. The English title, which as well as Thoreau seems to have Kafkaesque connotations, declares the film's intention to get beneath the surface, to find some kind of deeper truths. It's not altogether clear whether it has pulled this off, but there's no doubt the intrepid Swedish directorial team are embarked on some kind of unorthodox investigation, even if it's one that sometimes runs the risk of going over the heads of its audience, rather than under the surface.

1 comment: said...

in a word maniche;
man tänker sitt!