Wednesday, September 12, 2012, 12p, Bloor Cinema
This film brings to mind Tolstoy's quote: "All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way."
This Swedish family is a dysfunctional matriarchy controlled by a trio of unhappy women - Sigrid, the mother, and her two oldest daughters Elin, a high-fashion model, and Katarina, a surgeon in an unhappy marriage with two young daughters. Men are largely absent from this film with the exception of the cuckolded and ineffectual husband of Katarina.
Stop right there ... I find it hard to believe that either of these two women holds those occupations. They lack the demeanor and, in some instances, the gravitas required.
Sigrid is exacting, critical, and mean-spirited, the kind of woman who would send a fifteen year daughter to Milan and encourage her not to come back. Elin sleeps around, drinks too much and takes drugs. She is a parody of what an unhappy model is. Katarina has taken out her frustrations in a much more conventional route: an affair with a much younger man. There is a third much younger daughter Lova but she is too miserable and too passive to resist these hurricanes that are her female relations.
Thrown together to celebrate Sigrid's 70th birthday on her lavish estate, the women soon start to implode as the old resentments surface. The two eldest girls are particularly destructive and vindictive.
Into this stewing pot of anger there must be a boiling point and a resolution which, as usual in family dramas, usually involves a crisis around the matriarch or patriarch. There is a climax and a rapprochement of sorts but it's stereotypical and neat. Not even a medical crisis can resolve every family crisis. In fact, it usually doesn't.
This film made me want to revisit Ingmar Bergman's films (the film's notes briefly allude to Bergman). Now he can do Swedish angst.