Review: Stockholm (Rodrigo Sorogoyen, 2013)

Stockholm (Image taken from http://www.elmundo.es/baleares/2013/10/24/5268e7770ab740db2a8b457b.html)
Stockholm (Image taken from http://www.elmundo.es/baleares/2013/10/24/5268e7770ab740db2a8b457b.html)

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.

"Him" and "Her" (Image taken from http://criticasen8.blogspot.co.uk/2013/11/stockholm-la-luna-luce-mas-de-noche.html)
“Him” and “Her” (Image taken from http://criticasen8.blogspot.co.uk/2013/11/stockholm-la-luna-luce-mas-de-noche.html)

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.

"Her" (Image taken from http://www.sensacine.com/actores/actor-417322/fotos/detalle/?cmediafile=21045863)
“Her” (Image taken from http://www.sensacine.com/actores/actor-417322/fotos/detalle/?cmediafile=21045863)

All in all, this is a striking film, aesthetically pleasing, with an engrossing soundtrack, and displaying incredible performances by both lead actors.  Highly recommended!

 

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5 thoughts on “Review: Stockholm (Rodrigo Sorogoyen, 2013)”

  1. I literally have not walked out of a film more quickly than I did with this one. I found the concept of what you & most critics use as a ‘boy-meets-girl’ description to be highly misleading and actually – dangerous as a perspective. As the young male STALKS (pursues some might wrongly say), the young female who has CLEARLY SAID, “No” to him, the premise – along with the foggy/burred effect cinematography – just wore on me to the point that I wanted to scream at the screen! Why oh why do we have to continue to have male filmmakers (and some self hating female filmmakers as well) repeat these types of stories of 1) males acting as predators 2) females being weak and giving in – even against their own gut instincts not to 3) keep writing scripts where the disconnect of emotional understanding and consequences in ages 30-and-under is promoted? I know more young people who are thinkers and are beginning to see each other more as equals in the game of attachment and concepts of loving. This film was one more destructive stab into an overdone ugliness of misogynistic blather that is clothed in descriptions of some exotic beauty in filmmaking that is narrow-minded at best. Enough already. Where are the feminist filmmakers in Spain who *get* that idea that we have progressed beyond caveman models of the male-female dynamic in film? Oh! Then I remembered what you so aptly and sadly described here: the horrific fall of the film industry in Spain. Someone please get the progressive feminists a crowdfunder so that drek like this STOCKHOLM isn’t seen as some triumph. It is an awful little piece of mierda.

    1. Thanks for your comment on my post. I appreciate you taking the time to respond and share your ideas.
      I agree with you that His persistent pursuit of Her is hideously uncomfortable to watch. But isn’t that the point? Aren’t we supposed to feel uncomfortable, to feel that she has been pursued, harassed, bullied into succumbing to his advances?
      I wonder, how do you read the second half of the film? For me that’s where the first part of the narrative becomes more complex than the film’s premise initially seems.
      I absolutely agree with you that female and feminist filmmaking requires backing and support, both critically and economically, not just in the Spanish context, but in so many other filmmaking frameworks. And it’s not just women/feminist filmmakers but also other marginalised groups.
      For example, my research deals, in part, with the representation of immigrants and immigration in contemporary Spanish cinema and there are so few filmmakers in Spain who have themselves come from such a background.
      Thanks again for your comments and for taking the time to share your thoughts.

      1. My main point is that this subject matter has been done to death. In a world where the subject of female oppression is FINALLY getting into the psyche of more general populations via the immediacy of social media as a tool for sharing information & (hopefully) to help create positive (safer) change, I really don’t think we need to see one more film doing the same damn thing ever again. I literally did not stay for this ‘second half’ because the ‘first half’ was so annoying in both subject and too blurred in the camera choice that I jumped out of me seat and made it outside as quickly as I could. I found a small group of younger people who were also annoyed and had left the theatre, and we shared a great conversation on the lack of imagination in filmmakers to produce more forward thinking art where the genders are instead pondering philosophical issues and points of real merging. I think the content was so 1962. It’s as if the filmmaker was stuck in time and had not woken up to the fact that females in particular are sick and tired of being the subject of being pursued by needy, confused liars and they themselves made out to be in turn needy and unfulfilled until they accept someone like that between their legs. Simplistic, offensive and downright backwards thinking that wasn’t worth sitting passed the 30 minutes that already wasted my time. As we were talking, another couple came outside – a straight couple in their 40’s – who loved foreign films. They, too found STOCKHOLM to be a set back to the larger narrative of females being portrayed as stronger individuals. I think we’re all pretty much done and desire real storytelling with strong characters who long to connect with the world-at-large and intimately with other humans to affect a better life. Not a gaggle of females who allow their female friend to be unattended walking dark streets for hours heading home. That was just disgusting and too out-of-date for what is (thankfully) a dying idea among most female friends that I know.

      2. I think you would perhaps have a distinct perspective if you had seen the second half of the film.
        In terms of the cinematography, I found it aesthetically appealing, although I appreciate that is a personal choice.
        Whether or not the subject has been done to death, I’m not sure. The problem is that women continue to suffer – on a daily basis – harassment, misogyny, sexism and rape. For me that means the subject still merits exploration, both on and beyond the cinematic screen.
        With regard to your final point, I think it’s sad that society tells girls not to walk home alone, drink too much, wear short skirts etc. instead of telling men not to harass, pursue, rape.

    2. I watched the film only now, but seriously. I can’t believe that somebody only watched 30 minutes of the movie, not even finished with the whole movie, has so many things to say. If you haven’t finished the movie, you watched only half of it, how dare you to say anything about it? How dare you to criticize anything about it? You don’t know even know the story, and it’s twist and turn. It’s like went to the second floor of empire state building and claims it is only two-story tall. Ridiculous.
      And the whole movie is much about just boys pursue girls, etc. There is a lot about expectations, about how the feeling and perceptions changes over time, etc.
      Please, if you want to give your opinion on sth, at least finish watching it.

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