Sunday, September 15, 2013

TIFF 2013: Hotell

Alicia Vikander
Hotell (Sweden, 2013) directed by Lisa Langseth, 99 minutes, TIFF BellLightbox 1, 11.45a

Girl .... the Scandinavians are dark ... listed as a comedy drama in the programme book I kept wondering nervously when the comedy part would kick in with this film.

Erika (Alicia Vikander whom you may recognize from A Royal Affair) is a beautiful. elegantly dressed perfectionist. She appears to have the ideal life: a wonderful husband, a beautiful home, a great job. She is expecting her first child - a boy. We can tell that Erika is accustomed to having things exactly her way - from the way she carefully arranges the photos in the yet to be inhabited bedroom of the baby to the Cesarean section planned two weeks before the birth date. 

Unfortunately, Erika must deliver two weeks early under traumatic circumstances and the little boy is born with likely brain damage due to temporary asphyxiation. This understandably plunges her into a deep depression. She is unable to see the child, much less hold him and comfort him.

Erika begins attending group therapy but is virtually silent during the many sessions that she attends. The only thing that engages her is an item she remembers from the news where a woman comments that she sees herself as a hotel where she can compartmentalize feelings and states of mind. Four fellow group members excitedly concur and then Erika offers to bring them to a hotel for a night to reflect and work on their problems.

And what a group she assembles ...  Rikard (the exceptional David Dencik) obsessed with his mother, torture and Mayan culture; Ann Sophie (Mira Eklund), terrified of simple every day encounters; and lonely, middle-aged Pernilla (Anna Bjelkerud), who wishes nothing more than to have sex with a married man; and, mysterious Peter who harbours his own secrets.

The group tries to accommodate all of their quirks and desires - traveling from hotel to hotel with Erika's husband thinking she is at some sort of week long therapy session. Of course the denouement comes and when it is does it's both hilarious and shocking ... and plumb in the middle of a wedding party to boot.

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