Saturday, August 22, 2009

Lukas Moodysson

While in Sweden I watched Lars von Trier's Anti-Christ, which was one of the best movies I've seen in a long time, talking fox and all:

I also watched Lukas Moodysson's English-language feature Mammoth:

Unfortunately it was very disappointing. Something like "Lost in Translation" with a vague politics: global capitalism is bad because it destroys families; you should spend more time with your family.

This idea seems to run through all of Moodysson's films. In his films, community and belonging seems to be almost always positive, while in Von Trier, that's where horrible things happen (most extremely in Anti-Christ).


Blogger Max said...

I think the ramifications of "community and belonging" differ depending on where in the world we're talking about. That aspect of culture is, for example, part of what makes Japan an incredibly safe, relatively crime-free country.

7:55 PM  
Blogger Max said...

Another thing about Mammoth: While I haven't seen it yet, I do initially find it problematic that, as usual, it seems Asia is being depicted as this fantasy land where even the most staid Western visitors can't help but be corrupted by all of the easy vices at their fingertips. It's odd that European "dens of sin" like, say, Amsterdam, aren't serially portrayed in this fashion.

1:18 AM  
Blogger Johannes said...

1. Yes, there are positive things with community. But the same things that make some people safe may lead to the exclusion of others.

2. Yes, it is true that this go to Asia narrative is problematic. This kind of "corruption" is to begin with problematic. And the hooker with a heart of gold is just so ahrg.

3. In defense of the movie (slightly), it portrays ultimately a cause for this corruption - that is that global capitalism has ruined the family, community etc. The main charater (who is "corrupted") is paralleled with a pedophile who almost kills a child of a maid from the Phillippines. And this invisible (we don't ever see his face) pedophile seems to stand in for the invisible wreckage of global capitalism.

4. There is a certain degree of realism about Asia, since a whole bunch of people go there for illicit fun (I think just about every Swede has been to Thailand).

5. It is also not true that Europe is never portrayed as sinful. Moodysson's "Lilya 4-Ever" was about a Russian prostitute who is brought to Sweden. "Hole in the Heart" was about porn-making in suburban apartment in Sweden.

6. The whole narrative of globalism that comes to Sweden is a hugely pervasive narrative in Swedish culture. Just about every Henning Mankell novel is about this dynamic; Let the Right One In makes use of it as its subtext etc.

8:28 AM  
Blogger Max said...

1. That's true about exclusion. But I look at it this way: People may get left out in Japan, but because 95%+ of the people who live there are ethnically Japanese, it also means more people fit into that community. On the other hand, a lot of people are still excluded in, say, America, where individual backgrounds, etc. are supposedly all respected equally. One of the major criticisms lobbed at a place like Japan is that there's more social equity, but that people who fall through the cracks, really fall through the cracks, and tend to have little recourse when it happens. But the same can be said, practically speaking, of the West as well. We pride ourselves on providing people with many outlets for grievances, but at the end of the day, providing outlets says nothing about whether those outlets work much of the time, or whether they actually prevent grievances from occurring in the future.

4. But I'm not sure that this corrupt form of tourism with which Asia is often freighted in the popular imagination is any different from the corrupt tourism in which people routinely engage in their own countries. I think the main difference is that one happens on vacation, and the other happens maybe on the weekend or at night. I'm not particularly interested in whether it reflects a reality, but rather that this reality has become a commonplace of media interpretations of Asia. I mean, when I read in the short film synopsis that it was about a man who goes to Thailand on business, I immediately knew he was going to be "corrupted" by the place. What else could he possibly encounter in Thailand besides kinky, potentially illicit sex, drugs, or whatever else? It may bear on reality, but it's a really boring reality to me. And it's obviously not the sole reality of Asia. Not by a stretch.

5. I saw "Lilya 4-Ever," but even then, that was the Russians who sort of initiated all that, even if she eventually ended up Sweden. I feel like slagging Russia for its corrupt underbelly almost doesn't count as a slag on Europe, if only because of the special place Russia has in modern European history. I haven't seen "Hole in the Heart," though. I guess my objection is that, whenever somebody goes to Thailand in a movie, they always end up caught in some illicit, perverse form of corruption. When film characters go to Amsterdam, it's to innocently smoke pot and engage in perfectly healthy forms of hedonism.

6. "Let The Right One In" was pretty fantastic.

6:21 PM  

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