"Granny's dancing on the table" by Hanna Sköld (SWEDEN)
San Sebastian Film Festival 2015 - Main Competition
Man against wilderness was, is and probably always will be one of the most popular themes in modern art and culture. But what happens if the motif of escaping the urban reality and leaving everything behind for the sake of solitude would be diverted? Hanna Sköld takes up the challenge, answering the question in a particularly graceful and undeniably vigorous way.
Eini is a quiet girl on the edge of puberty. She lives with her father in a lonely place, excluded from both time and society. Their only companions are a few farm animals and the infinite forest. The father is an extremely strict nurturer. His will to protect Eini from the outside world and herself quickly starts to reveal a vicious circle, which originated many years ago. The girl discovers it by a series of letters, written by her grandmother. Past and present clash.
From the very beginning, the director starts building up a thick layer of suspense, getting heavier with each passing minute. The feeling of impending doom grabs a viewer by the neck and doesn't let go trough most of the picture, making it unbearable and addictive at the same time. Film is filled with many hints and sub texts. If gathered carefully through out the whole picture, they create a whole new level to the presented plot. However vague it sounds, it's hard to say more without spoiling the pleasure of uncovering the story – the devil really is in the detail. The montage is clean, brutal and precise as surgeon's cuts, making the notion even more powerful. It's antithetical to the oneric cinematography, which brings to mind paintings of Stanisław Wyspiański and Caspar David Friedrich - just like a sweet, surrealistic dream that's about to turn into a nightmare.
Important part of the plot are the imaginary retrospectives, in which Eini visualizes her grandma's letters. She does so in a form of stop motion animation. It is twisted, creepy, ugly and goes perfectly with the content. Some of the most brutal, sexual and emotional scenes are portrayed by the dolls – almost as the creator wanted to save Eini and the viewers from the pain. Having said that, some of them are still really hard to watch without emotional chest pain.
Sköld cites many forms of oppression – sex, religion, tradition, misogyny and violence being main ones. Making a clear stand on the matter doesn't stop her from digging deeper. She manages to create a multi-angled story, looking for reasons and asking questions rather than dividing right from wrong. A strong voice without imposement.
Is violence inborn, obtained or inherited? Hanna Sköld seems to answer with the later, making it clear that love, hate and everything in between is something that one must learn – just like a child, crawling into its first steps. Second feature of the young director is one of the most interesting pieces of this year's European cinema. She brings back the freshness, not only on the screen, but also in the field of distribution. Her Kickstarter campaign gained almost a thousand contributors. She openly supports common creatives, putts her work on Pirate Bay and encourages people to remix it in their own projects. At the same time, she goes to major festivals, trying to reach a wider audience. Creating a bridge between the A-league industry and the growing virtual one might be just a perfect side effect of simply crafting a great piece of work, and that's exactly what Granny's dancing on the table is.