A family gathering of four women
by Vittoria Scarpa
- The Swedish director’s third feature film delves into an all female family affair with bittersweet comedy undertones.
More often than not, when there is a family gathering in a film, things end badly. Swedish director, Jesper Ganslandt’s new feature film is no exception to this rule. Blondie [+see also:
interview: Jesper Ganslandt
film profile], an all-female family tale, presented at Venice Days in Venice, combines four extraordinary actresses, all of whom are marvellously blonde. The blondie that the title refers to is Elin (played by Carolina Gynning, a former model who was also a winner on Sweden’s Big Brother), the second in a line of three sisters – all terribly different, but all united by a common form of existential restlessness which comes and goes. Elin is the starting point for an exploration among this complex family nucleus, and it is to her that the spectator will remain tied to throughout the film. So much so in fact, that the film seems like an anthem to her. She is a captivating, dramatic and entertaining character who combines elements of fragility, unruliness and madness.
To celebrate her seventieth birthday, a mother (played by theatre actress Marie Göranzon) asks her three daughters to come and stay in their childhood home: Elin, a model, who divides her time between photo sets, cocaine and casual encounters; the firstborn Katarina (Helena af Sandeberg), who is married with two children and has a young lover; and Lova (Alexandra Dahlström), the household baby, who lives in London and has a propensity towards crying and panic attacks. As so often is the case in families, roles are very clearly set out. Katarina is the reliable one, Lova is the most taken care of and Elin is treated badly. The three sisters meet again, laugh and dance. But celebrations quickly give way to old wounds and repressed grudges, revealing little by little a mother who is not as loving and kind as she first appears.
The theme - that of a family on the brink of explosion - is a recurring one in Nordic cinema. “It is a subject which is easy to relate and identify yourself to,” observes Ganslandt, “but my women are not asking themselves existential questions, like in Bergman’s films. They are just pissed off.” “My objective was to create a credible family. Which is why rehearsals lasted six months, starting with improvisation: washing dishes, going out together, sitting on the sofa.” Helena af Sandeberg describes the process in similar terms. “During filming, we all lived together. Now we are still in touch. In the end we managed to create a real family.”
The intimacy you feel between the four actresses is indeed strong. In the end, it really does seem like they are alike. A successful endeavour then for a successful film: a bittersweet comedy, a splendid portrait of women, a truthful, hazy painting full of family joys and pains.
(Translated from Italian)