Saturday, April 16, 2011

Psalm 21 (2010)

First of all, a serious warning: there will be a lot of superlative's in this review. No, it's not a review. It's a tribute.

Sorry, my hands are shaking. I have genuine problem writing down what I feel about Psalm 21. I was SO skeptical before watching this movie, really. Because Swedish horror movies generally sucks big time! But what I think we have here is THE best Swedish horror movie made. Yes, I would say so. It has some faults, some minor problem – but that occurs during the first 15-20 minutes of the story. I’m not gonna go into those details, but if you have problem with the beginning (which I’m sure only will be for Swedish viewers), just wait and let the movie take you into a very, very dark story. A story which holds no punches what so ever with its message.

Jonas Malmsjö, son of famous Swedish actor Jan Malmsjö (Fanny and Alexander, Scenes from a Marriage etc), plays Henrik, a priest living a, on the surface, a happy wonderful life. He’s divorced and feels that the relationship with his son is cracking up. But that’s the least of his problem when his father, also a priest, dies in a drowning accident. They haven’t had contact for many years, but Henrik goes up to Hammerdal, the small town where his father had his church, to find out what really happen. A dramatic incident makes his car break down, and he’s stuck on a small road out in the deepest forest. He finally finds shelter in a remote house. The family that lives there are odd, and they seem to have some connection to his father. At the same time he starts to get visions, terrible visions…

Here we have a genuine Swedish horror movie, but for once it either tries to imitate US production or trying to be TO Swedish. And with “to Swedish” I mean very correct, very clear, very boring, silly, crappy and shallow. There’s stuff that are in every Swedish drama production – cello music, saliva when people yells or cry and very small towns – but thankfully director Fredrik Hiller never once falls in the terrible fucking pit of normality, “lagom” was we say in Sweden. “Lagom” means that something is either too much, too little, too bad, too good, too funny, too scary, too tasty and so on. A very normal mentality in Sweden, which is very sad.

But Psalm 21 delivers, for once. I can’t say it’s a gory movie, but it has it fair share of very effective shocks and special effects – all very well-done. The visuals of the movie are stunning, and the cinematography together with Hiller’s direction is among the best I’ve seen in our cinema for a long time. But where it’s most powerful is in its story, which I really don’t want to say so much about. But as ex-Christian, raised in a very nasty religious environment, this movie comes as a revelation. It’s like I, for once, counts in this sick thing we call religion and what that form of spiritual powerplay has done.. I’m sure some more emotionally sensitive people will be disturbed by the story that unfolds, but I’m also sure that a lot of people will take this to their hearts. But make no mistake, Psalm 21 is a supernatural (not some silly “It’s all in his mind”-shit) horror-thriller.

I also want to mention the actors. Jonas Malmsjö has never been a favourite actually, and he does some of his old acting-tricks – but does them very well. Per Ragnar, who plays his father, has always been an excellent actor, specialised in creepy, dark characters. He’s marvellous here. Görel Crona, I haven’t seen much for her lately, so it’s great to see her do such a low-key, but very fine-tuned part has the mother of the family. Her husband is played by Niklas Falk is downright fantastic. Their grown-up son is played by Björn Bengtsson, and he still has some theatrical mannerism in his acting, but handles the part very well – I’m impressed. Josefin Ljungman plays the teenager daughter, Nora, and makes it a realistic performance – totally superior to a lot of actresses in her age. Ok, I could mention everyone, so fuck it.

Psalm 21 is a – insert random superlative here – movie, and probably the best Swedish horror movie ever. Sorry for my ramblings, I need to buy a kebab now to calm me down.

No comments: