Underdog: The flipside of a (too) perfect society
by Giorgia Del Don
- The debut feature from young Swedish director Ronnie Sandahl made its world premiere at the Zürich Film Festival
Following a first step into the film market of the Cannes Film Festival, Underdog (Svenskjävel) [+see also:
interview: Ronnie Sandahl
film profile] by child prodigy Ronnie Sandahl makes its first global appearance on the screens of the Zurich Film Festival (International Competition). Although this is the young Swedish director's first feature film, he's already become a household name at home. Be it through his novels (causing a sensation with his first work released in 2007), his articles (one of the top reporters of the Swedish daily newspaper Aftonbladet) or his movies, Ronnie Sandhal speaks to us about his world, about the subtle power games that govern our society and with which we must contend. Underdog depicts an underground, guarded and hostile Norway in which splendour clashes with poverty, in a complex exchange of roles and interdependencies.
Ana “Dino” Dinovich (magnificently played by newcomer Bianca Kronlöf), a young Swedish girl who emigrated to Oslo like so many of her peers, in search of wealth that has become a distant memory (if not a myth), struggles to get by from one dead-end-job to the next. Disillusioned, numbed by a routine that seems to forever repeat itself, Dino isn't searching for anything; she lets herself be dragged along by life's events. Unexpectedly it's exactly that quiescent tendency, monotony even, that will gradually transform into a flood of conflicting emotions which albeit painful, will wake her once and for all from her slumber, and free her from her fears.
From a part-time waitress, the young protagonist of Underdog finds herself having to play the part of babysitter for a middle class family in Oslo, a role which fits her like a glove. Gradually her presence becomes indispensable not just for the child that she takes care of but also for her teenage sister and above all for her father (Steffen, played by Henrik Rafaelsen) who is overwhelmed by a wave of responsibilities that don't fit in with his decadent past as an elite sportsman. Dino is nothing like Steffen's gold-plated little world, she is free. However, freedom comes at a high price - by courageously venturing into the unknown, courage which Steffen clearly doesn't have.
Underdog is a film in which the intimate, Dino's story, becomes a metaphor for an entire social situation - that of so many young Swedes who must contend with the weaknesses of their own nation, forced to beg for a badly-paid job from their traditionally poor neighbour: Norway. Power, and above all its reversal, is what govern our society, and that's what's at the heart of Underdog. The conquest of a dreamt-of hegemony is what transforms Dino, from an ideal victim of a love story that's destined to fail, to the master of her own life. A powerful and entirely modern film by a young director who shows us that he still has many cards to play.
(Translated from Italian)