- Ghosts of Empire Prairie (2013) Review

Title: Under Gottsunda

Also known as:

Year: 2014

Genre: Drama

Language: Swedish

Runtime: 73 min

Director: Viktor Johansson

Writer: Viktor Johansson


Follow the lives of a couple of teenagers in Gottsunda, Sweden, as they hang out with their friends, ponder their life's big questions, and try to find themselves.

Our thoughts:
"Under Gottsunda is based on a writing project where kids in Gottsunda wrote about their everyday life. Viktor Johansson was the teacher of said project. The movie is also inspired by one of his own books. I have not heard of Viktor Johansson prior to this movie, and the movie itself is his debut feature as far as I know.

"Under Gottsunda" is a look at the life of young people during one summer in Gottsunda. Their time is spent with friends, with their hobbies and with their questions about the life around them. We meet a kid whose mother has been acting weird since his sister died and believes that they own a cat. Questions are raised around the frequent burning of cars. A military-inspired martial art is being taught on the streets. An immigrant doesn't feel welcomed in the dark country of Sweden. A young couple argues. Life in Gottsunda is indeed ordinary, but ordinary doesn't mean it isn't important.

The cinéma vérité-style of this drama works well with its material. Being that it is very based on the real location of Gottsunda, and shot there, it makes it feel like a documentary. It's definitely a compliment to the actors - if they are indeed acting - that there are rarely moments that you don't believe are documented. Though a lot of the time is spent with the characters messing around, with a voice-over.

There are some funny and sad parts of the movie, but most of the time is spent raising questions that walk the line in between the two. With its arthouse sensibilities and poetic style of cinematography, it's easy to get lost in the mesmerizing truth's that we sometimes never stop to think about, but on the other hand it's sometimes too vague to give us an emotional reaction. The characters show tiny bits of themselves, but it's on the shallow side when we follow so many different groups of people in just 73 minutes.

The fluid camera work is sometimes inspiring, but sometimes it got on my nerves a bit. Especially since it seems like they used a stabilizer effect to keep the camera more steady, which isn't bad in its own right unless you actually notice it (which you do when backgrounds and such sway in an odd way). It does give a weird vibe that can work if you're making an experimental film, but as this feel more like a documentary I found it distracting to see the effect. Other than the effect, I think the cinematography complements the poetic nature of the film, but can get a bit heavy at times. It's a style of filming that makes even the most mundane pretentious, and I'm not sure that the movie actually needed that.

I'm not sure how wide the distribution of "Under Gottsunda" is, but if you're interested in movies that show a piece of a reality that's different from your own then you should check it out. It's not the most upbeat movie, but it's also not your stereotypical sappy drama. Simply put, it's realistic in its balance. When compared to more famous works of similar style, it doesn't really bring anything exciting to the table, but looked at as only a movie about the youth of Gottsunda, it could have been worse.

Positive things:
- Feels like a documentary.
- A realistic balance between fun and sad.
- The poetic cinematography complements the writing.

Negative things:
- The fluid filming came off as pretentious when it was done as much as it is here. Not to mention that the stabilizer effect felt misplaced.

Gore: 0/5
Nudity: 0/5
Story: 2.5/5
Effects: 0/5
Comedy: 2/5

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