Involuntary (De Ofrivilliga) (tbc)

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The ViewQueenstown Review

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Review byMatthew Turner28/10/2010

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 98 mins

Impressively directed and superbly written, this is an engaging and provocative Swedish drama with terrific performances from its cast of (mostly) unknowns.

What's it all about?
Directed by Ruben Ostlund, Involuntary is a Swedish drama that presents five unconnected stories linked by the common theme of peer pressure and the difficulty involved in standing up to it. The stories are as follows: middle-aged Villmar (Villmar Bjorkman) is seriously injured by a firework at his wife's birthday party but insists that everyone carry on partying; pouting teenagers Linnea and Sara (Linnea Cart-Lamy and Sara Eriksson) go out for a drunken night with their friends that goes horribly wrong; schoolteacher Cecilia (Cecilia Milocco) witnesses a fellow teacher (Ulf Lundstedt) hit a pupil and agonises over whether to confront him about it; a bus driver (Henrik Vikman) halts his coach and refuses to drive any further until someone owns up to an act of vandalism that was actually committed by a famous actress (real-life actress Maria Lundqvist, playing herself); and a raucous weekend get-together between seven male friends takes an uncomfortable turn when Leffe (Leif Edlund) chases Olle (Olle Liljas) and sexually assaults him in the name of friendly roughhousing.

In addition, there's a thematically central scene involving Cecilia, in which one of her pupils is asked to identify the longest of two lines and is pressurised into giving the wrong answer after her class all laugh and jeer at her (as secretly instructed) when she gets it right.

The Good
Ostlund gets terrific performances from his cast of unknowns, particularly Milocco, who has the film's showiest role (at least, she's afforded the most close-ups and the most dialogue, which in this film amounts to the same thing). Lundqvist (a much bigger star in Sweden) also deserves praise for playing a less than flattering version of herself in the film's funniest segment.

The Great
Ostlund's direction is intriguing throughout, employing minimalist compositions, disorienting camera angles and occasionally poor lighting, so that we often have to strain to catch the details; similarly, the multiple-story, fixed-camera approach recalls the work of fellow countryman Roy Andersson. The stories themselves are often excruciating to watch, but they are also genuinely compelling, as we ask ourselves what we'd do in each situation.

Worth seeing?
By turns shocking, chilling, darkly funny and genuinely disturbing, Involuntary is an impressively directed, thought provoking drama that delivers a powerful message. Highly recommended.

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Content updated: 21/01/2019 14:52

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