Monday, 5 November 2012

Simon And The Oaks (2011) @ Simon Och Ekarna

post-coital chess
Swedish post-coital chess? Oughtta try it sometime.

At a glance:
Simon And The Oaks (2011) or Simon Och Ekarna in its native Swedish, is a lavish adaptation from Marianne Fredriksson's 1985 book of the same name. Running 122 minutes long, it's a WWII comin-of-age drama told chiefly through an awkward boy, Simon (Jonatan S. Wächter) who talks to trees and dreams of music, findin no support nor understandin from his pragmatic home. He goes to a fancy city school and befriends a Jewish boy called Isak (Karl Martin Eriksson). The two essentially swap fathers due to common interests and by the end credits, you'd appreciate why the Swedes thought this was a pretty powerful picture and it swept everythin at their domestic awards.
Bad news on the doorstep:
The young Simon (Jonatan S. Wächter)
This film is part of this year's lineup at GSC's European Union Film Festival so I thought I'd look it up. It wasn't their Best Foreign Language Pic submission to the Oscars and you could see why. Filmleaf's Chris Knipp summarises: "despite international success, Simon lacks anything to make it special. It feels like a rehash of many other pictures with just a touch of Swedishness pasted in; it quite lacks the magic of Jan Troell's historical sagas." Indeed I felt more moved with Troell's Maria Larsson's Everlasting Moments (2008) in the same event three years back.'s Brian Orndoft notes how it's "surprising but also frustrating, especially when larger ideas on musical liberation and environmental connection are lost to the melodrama, resulting in an intermittently powerful, yet vaguely detailed film." Variety's Ronnie Schreib praises the retention of the narrative complexity of the Swedish bestseller on which it's based but decries how the WWII saga "never creates an emotional or intellectual throughline of its own". I'll sum it all up for you - it was a very uneven movie that was largely borin. 
Perennial wonderment:
I have yet to see the 2010 Swede submission that made the last eight for Best Foreign Language Pic - Simple Simon a.k.a. I Rymden Finns Inga Känslor (meanin "in space there are no feelings"). About time I did.
Reminds me of:
Katharina Schuttler obliges with a full frontal.
The older Simon is portrayed by Bill Skarsgård, son of Stellan, and he reminds me of Louis Garrel in The Dreamers (2003). That sex scene recalls the one in Angela's Ashes (1999) - would you have sex with a horny young girl stricken with the consumption?
Amacam joker, berapa bintang lu mau kasi?
Problematic momentum and not enough emotional hooks to get us to root for the older Simon, who comes across rather unlikeable and difficult to comprehend. What can I say - go read the book, perhaps? An accomplished movie, nonetheless.★★1/2
Bonus material:
Here we have some important sex scenes you won't be watchin if you're gonna catch this at the upcomin European Union Film Festival in Malaysia. Simon (Bill Skarsgård) is seduced by concentration camp survivor Iza (Katharina Schuttler) but her damaged, psycho-sexual  requires a spot of S&M from him and he simply can't provide the rough lovin. Unless things have changed, it will go down to the manual cardboard censorship again.
Simon (Bill Skarsgård) is seduced by concentration camp survivor Iza (Katharina Schuttler)
but cannot provide for her damaged psycho-sexual needs.
Director Lisa Ohlin with cast Bill Skarsgård and Helen Sjöholm.
(L-R) Cast & crew: Jan Josef Liefers, Katharina Schuettler, Lisa Ohlin, Bill Skarsgard.
Photocall during a set visit to promote the new movie 3 May 2010.