I finally got round to watching Stockholm(Rodrigo Sorogoyen, 2013 – trailer here) the other night. I’ve had the DVD for a while, and I’ve been looking forward to watching it. The film won the 2014 Goya for Best Newcomer for Javier Pereira, and was nominated for Best Director and Best Actress. I can’t remember now where I first heard/read about it, although it was most likely on Twitter. There were two aspects of the film I found particularly intriguing: firstly, the fact that the film was crowd-funded, and secondly, the much-discussed ‘twist’ halfway through the film. It more than lived up to my expectations.
The film’s financial profile is particularly relevant, given the dire economic climate in Spain generally, and with regards to the film industry in particular. I’ll offer a brief overview of the scenario here. State funding of Spanish cinema has halved in the past four years, with the most recent budget cuts (October 2013) meaning that the national cinematography fund will receive only €33 million (£28m) in 2014. This constitutes a 14% drop on last year, and is only just enough to cover the industry’s debts. These cuts have been described as politically-motivated by, among others, Enrique González Macho, President of the Spanish Cinema Academy, who has remarked that this represents the extent to which the current PP government are scared of the culture and cinema, and their potential for change and impact. These cuts have significantly affected the amount of films being made in Spain. Indeed, 2013 saw 28% fewer films in production, and, consequently, enforced unemployment. To add to this, VAT on ticket sales has risen to 21% in Spain. (You can read more about this here.)
Against this dismal financial backdrop, the producers of Stockholm turned to the crowd-funding website Verkami to secure funds to complete their film. The DVD includes a press conference, in which one of the producers talks about their move from the more creative side of filmmaking to the financial side as a necessity because the various sites in which they would usually seek funding had closed down. The credits list all of the Verkami contributors, in a gesture that underscores the value of their contribution to the project and acknowledges that contribution as part of the labour through which the film was produced.
Alongside the film’s alternative path to funding, the second element I was initially intrigued by was the much-discussed ‘twist’ halfway through the film. Stockholm begins as a very conventional teenage/youth scenario, in which boy meets girl and claims to be in love with her. While she initially resists his advances, they spend the entire night walking around the city, until eventually they end up back in his apartment. And this is where the twist occurs – which I won’t reveal in order to avoid any spoilers for those who are still to watch the film (and I recommend that you do!). Suffice to say, this twist constitutes a moment of rupture that splits the film in half, separating the initial, conventional ‘boy-meets-girl’ narrative of the first half from the tense, dramatic, second half of the film, which is more akin to the thriller than the romance genre.
The film’s aesthetics constitute a site in which these two intriguing aspects of the work converge. Because of its modest budget, Stockholmwas filmed in just twelve days. The limited funds, and thus time, available led to a strikingly minimalist aesthetic. Indeed, the majority of the film’s action takes place on the streets of Madrid at night in the first half, and within the apartment of the unnamed male protagonist (known as ‘Él’ (‘He’) in the script) in the second half of the film. This split between an exterior and an interior location mirrors the narrative and genre split between the two halves of the film. This is further underscored by the colour palette of both halves. Darkness, at times tinged with accented red and blue lighting, dominates the first half, symbolising intrigue, the unknown, and the excitement connected with these qualities. By contrast, a stark, bleached whiteness overwhelms the second half, signifying the cold, harsh truth the characters face the morning after their night together. These diverging aesthetic approaches produce a fissure in the texture of the film, a fissure embodied by the unnamed female protagonist (known as ‘Ella’) quite literally in the colours of the clothing she wears: a black cardigan over a white dress.
All in all, this is a striking film, aesthetically pleasing, with an engrossing soundtrack, and displaying incredible performances by both lead actors. Highly recommended!