Broken Hill Blues: a world at risk
by Aurore Engelen
- In the most northern of Swedish cities, a group of teenagers slowly leave childhood to the rhythm of telluric squeaks in an iron mine
Kiruna, the most northern city in Sweden. To the nerve-wracking rhythm of sounds from an iron mine, which rages on under the feet of the city’s inhabitants, seasons go by, the endless night of winter gives way to the endless days of summer. It is a key year for a group of adolescents getting ready to leave the world of childhood. Beyond their love stories – poetic and controversial – and the fear surrounding their professional futures, each of them is following their own paths. Should they repeat family patterns when these have already revealed themselves to be fatal? Or should they leave when the ground is literally shifting below their feet? But where should they go? Paradox is at the centre of life in this mining town. A mine, which is the lifeline to the city, but also its death warrant. Like a wild beast - wounded and menacing – the mine trembles and shakes the entire community. The earth revolts, and seems to want to reaffirm its own rights. If dreaming is allowed (dreams do not cost anything, like one of the characters stresses), teenagers from Kiruna find it difficult to get out of their own personal mines. While a new world, which needs to be built, offers itself to them, they seem magnetically attached to their own land.
Sofia Norlin is the woman behind this debut film – a melancholic story on the possibility of seeing a future in a world that is dying. The plot advances in small, rhythmic steps, interrupted by wide shots and atmospheric music full of whispers and dissonance. Most of the dialogue is limited to the mine, which murmurs throughout the film. A radio speaker warns about explosions in the mine throughout. Norlin portrays a world threatened from extinction through small scenes and large landscapes, while methods for survival have not yet been found. As the film advances, a group of children emerges from nature. They cross fields and gather around an abandoned house that has been reclaimed by nature. The children ask themselves what will become of the city when they will no longer be around and ask a question fundamental of childhood: would the world exist if we didn’t experience it? Confronted with this question, the earth reaffirms its autonomy and trembles, slowly destroying what man has built. Broken Hill Blues [+see also:
film profile], an ode to magnificent and unforgiving nature, is a contemplative piece of work, which requires a degree of attention from the spectator who is not guided through a personal story or a clear adventure. But this effort is rewarded by the aesthetic pleasure given out, by the naturalist lyricism. Not by chance, Broken Hill Blues received the Guldbagge (Swedish Oscar) for best photography by Petrus Sjövik.
(Translated from French)