FUCKING ÅMÅL (SHOW ME LOVE)
Color, 1998, 89 mins. 9 secs.
Directed by Lukas Moodysson
Alexandra Dahlström, Rebecka Liljeberg, Erica Carlson
Arrow Video (Blu-ray) (US/UK R0 HD) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9), Strand Releasing (DVD) (US R0 NTSC), Concorde (DVD) (Germany R2 PAL), Madman (DVD) (Australia R0 PAL), Vértice 360 (DVD) (Spain R2 PAL), Metrodome (DVD) (UK R2 PAL)
Color, 2000, 106 mins. 19 secs.
Directed by Lukas Moodysson
Starring Lisa Lindgren, Michael Nyqvist, Emma Samuelsson, Sam Kessel, Ola Rapace Ola Rapace, Gustaf Hammarsten
Arrow Video (Blu-ray) (US/UK R0 HD), Concorde (DVD) (Germany R0 PAL), SF Home Entertainment (DVD) (Sweden R2 PAL), Metrodome (DVD) (UK R2 PAL) / WS (1.66:1) (16:9), MGM (DVD) (US R1 NTSC) / WS (1.66:1)
Color, 2002, 109 mins. 3 secs.
Directed by Lukas Moodysson
Starring Oksana Akinshina, Artyom Bogucharskiy, Lyubov Agapova, Pavel Ponomaryov
Arrow Video (Blu-ray) (US/UK R0 HD), Madman (DVD (Australia R0 PAL), Newmarket Films (DVD) (US R1 NTSC), SF Home Entertainment (DVD) (Sweden R2 PAL), Sunfilm (DVD) (Germany R2 PAL), Metrodome (DVD) (UK R2 PAL) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9)
A HOLE IN MY HEART
97 mins. 51 secs.
Directed by Lukas Moodysson
Starring Thorsten Flinck, Björn Almroth, Sanna Bråding, Goran Marjanovic
Arrow Video (Blu-ray) (US/UK R0 HD), Universum (DVD) (Germany R2 PAL), Metrodome (DVD) (UK R2 PAL) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9)
74 mins. 18 secs.
Directed by Lukas Moodysson
Starring Jena Malone, Peter Lorentzon, Mariha Åberg
Arrow Video (Blu-ray) (US/UK R0 HD) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9)
125 mins. 28 secs.
Directed by Lukas Moodysson
Starring Gael García Bernal, Michelle Williams, Marife Necesito, Sophie Nyweide
Arrow Video (Blu-ray) (US/UK R0 HD), IFC (DVD) (US R1 NTSC) / WS (2.35:1) (16:9)
WE ARE THE BEST!
101 mins. 56 secs.
Directed by Lukas Moodysson
Mira Barkhammar, Mira Grosin, Liv LeMoyne, Johan Liljemark, Mattias Wiberg
Arrow Video (Blu-ray) (US/UK R0 HD), Magnolia (Blu-ray & DVD) (US RA/R1 HD/NTSC) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9)
One of the most significant names in European cinema from the past two decades (and more), Swedish director (and novelist and poet) Lukas Moodysson has charted a truly unpredictable and sometimes shocking trajectory since he made a splash in the late '90s. Though hardly the most prolific director among his peers, he's stirred up intense conversations with his biggest films and always makes for a big event at film festivals when he unveils a new title. His knack for eliciting powerful performances usually balances with a distinctive realistic visual style, not to mention his keen choices for soundtrack music including artists ranging from ABBA to Robyn to Ladytron. His entire feature film output to 2023 has been largely scattered among video labels on various formats over the years, but newcomers and devotees alike can enjoy all of it in Arrow Video's The Lukas Moodysson Collection with seven titles compiled on six Blu-ray. The limited edition also comes with a 200-page hardback book featuring new essays by Peter Walsh, excerpts from the original press kits for each film, and essays from a 2014 special issue of the Nordic culture journal Scandinavica by C. Claire Thomson, Helga H. Lúthersdóttir, Elina Nilsson, Scott MacKenzie & Anna Westerståhl Stenport and Kjerstin Moody.
Moodysson's acclaimed debut came in 1998 with Show Me Love, originally released in Sweden and in some other territories under the far more extreme title Fucking Åmål (a reference to a town in which part of it was originally set, not a person). This tale of aching adolescent love unfolds through the eyes of lonely Agnes (Liljeberg), who nurses a crush on the far more popular and traditionally attractive Elin (Dahlström). When Elin shows up at Agnes' very turbulent and nearly friend-free sweet sixteen party, the stage is set for personal revelations, a tentative romance, and a shared desire to get out of their oppressive town. Though understandably controversial at first because of its title (and initial annoyance from its namesake town), the film was a big breakthrough hit on the international circuit and was one of the most successful U.S. acquisitions for indie, LGBT-focused label Strand Releasing. It's been widely available around the world since then on DVD, but the Arrow is the best option to date featuring a 2K restoration by the Swedish Film Institute, approved by the director and cinematographer Ulf Brantås. It isn't a "pretty" film by any stretch given the intentionally gritty appearance of the Super 16 photography, but this is a more robust and detailed look than it even had during its theatrical release. As with the other titles in the set, this features DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround and 2.0 stereo mixes along with English subtitles. Film programmer Sarah Lutton conducts a large number of remote video interviews throughout the set including ones with Moodysson for each film, starting with an 18m11s one here covering how the project came about from his other artistic pursuits and the production process during a turning point in local cinema. Also included are a new interview Dahlström (17m31s) about how she delivered such an impressive performance as a teen, an appreciation of the film's depiction of same-sex young romance entitled "Did You Know She’s A Lesbian?" (21m50s) by Dr. Clara Bradbury-Rance, and Talk (Bara prata lite), a Moodysson short film from 1997. Also included are the theatrical trailer and an image gallery.
Two years later, Moodysson scored another international success with Together (Tillsammans), a quirky domestic dramedy set in 1975 and somewhat akin to films by other directors like Francois Ozon around the same time. Here the setting is a Stockholm commune household more or less held together by peacemaker Göran (Hammarsten) whose sister Elisabeth (Lindgren) shows up with her two kids to escape a violent husband. Essentially a snapshot of the dynamics among the inhabitants who can debate everything from politics to food choices, it's a melting pot of sexual orientations, relationship statuses, and personal doctrines with a cast that's more than up to the task including a young and unabashed Ola Rapace (before his current name) in his acting debut. The jump to shooting on 35mm here results in a visually appealing film with a warm, burnished glow that nicely evokes the '70s setting with orange, gold, and red dominating the production design, at least until the snowy ending. That aesthetic looks superb on the Blu-ray release, which easily outclasses its home video predecessors (some of which weren't even anamorphic) and features a great 4K-sourced restoration, again director and cinematographer approved. Here you get part two in the ongoing Moodysson-Lutton conversations (15m49s), explaining how the concept developed and the significance of the actors (some of whom were recruited to reprise their roles in the forthcoming sequel). Additional new interviews feature script supervisor Malin Fornander (23m21s) and editor Michal Leszczylowski (30m49s) chatting about their experiences with the director, following by a slew of deleted scenes (timecoded in SD) featuring some nice additional character grace notes: "Erik at the Theatre," "Elisabeth and Anna," "Snai,l" "Eva's Secrets," "Goran the Lego Saboteur," "Goran and Lena 1 and 2," "At Home," "Pillow Fight," "As in Bullerby," "Stenmark," and "World Cup in Wrestling." Other extras include the Swedish theatrical trailer and TV spots, a U.K. trailer, and an image gallery.
Moodysson's streak continued with his third film, Lilya 4-Ever, a return to the coming-of-age drama of his debut feature. Here the twist is that our female protagonist, Lilya Michailova (Akinshian), is living in Russia and eager to get away to start over somewhere else after her mother ditches her to go to America. The opportunity to make it to Sweden comes when she falls for Andrei (Ponomaryov), who plans to take off soon and could take her with him. As we've seen from the flash-forward opening sequence, things go far from smoothly since she ends up beaten in the process and forced into a life of prostitution. The turn of events also has a negative effect on her best friend, Volodya (Bogucharsky), culminating in a daring dual finale that had viewers debating for hours after catching it in theaters. Considerably darker and more tragic than the director's prior work, this one really hits hard but also has a tender touch including some magic realism that earned comparisons at the time to Lars von Trier. This is unmistakably the work of Moodysson though, etching a social drama depicting the world of international sex trafficking and its ripple effects on young people that carry wider than imagined.
Lilya 4-Ever would also mark the last really significant international release on the home video market for a while from Moodysson (for reasons we'll get to shortly), with DVDs issued throughout Europe and the U.S. at the time. Again the HD restoration here is immaculate and doesn't leave any room for improvement, giving the film a visual punch throughout that works very well with the intensity of the subject matter. The third Moodysson-Lutton interview (9m57s) is less substantive than most of the other ones but still valuable as he chats about the real-life incidents that inspired the film, its international reception, and the challenges of doing a truly international production for the first time. Weirdly he doesn't seem very keen on this film in retrospect, but many will disagree. Also included is a new interview with costume designer Denise Östholm (28m17s) about her multiple projects for the director, followed by a 2002 Guardian Interview with Moodysson filmed at the London Film Festival (93m20s) with a lot more detail about the film that helps contextualize some of its cultural references and the surrealist touches throughout. Finally the disc wraps with the theatrical trailer and an image gallery.
After that things went in a very extreme and unexpected direction with Moodysson's next two films, both of which are collected on disc four and are definitely only for braver viewers. Likely inspired by the wild experiments of the Dogme 95 movement that came out of Denmark, 2004's A Hole in My Heart (Ett hål i mitt hjärta) was shot under great secrecy with a volatile cast of four. The film's unveiled shocked viewers and sharply divided critics with its extreme imagery , captured on grungy DVCAM with natural lighting to capture the non-narrative snapshot of a claustrophobic Swedish pornographic film shoot. In between queasy close-ups you'll have to discover for yourself, we watch the interactions of four people in an apartment with Tess (Bråding), Geko (Marjanovic), and Erik (Almroth) working on a rough-and-tumble adult video while Eric (Almroth) sulks in his room. The degrading nature of the project starts to chafe at more than one of the inhabitants, with severely repellent behavior forcing some of them to look at themselves in a new light. Though it stops short of going full-on explicit, the film feels extremely filthy throughout with its lo-fi look and focus on deliberately confrontational, unpleasant subject matter to such an extent that no one still seems to agree on what themes it's trying to convey. Even in this set, Moodysson isn't quite telling even in his new interview (15m17s) where he admits he felt bad about the film for quite a while before eventually coming back around and admiring it as a worthy achievement. The a/v quality here is still very much limited by the source, unconverted and a textbook example of "it is what it is." A "Lukas Moodysson Masterclass" (26m34s) features a career-spanning interview with the director filmed at London’s National Film & Television School in 2004, where one can only imagine how this film went down with any unprepared viewers. Arguably the best extra in the entire set is "A Hole in My Second Heart" (16m48s), an extremely combative and gripping behind-the-scenes featurette capturing tensions between the director and actors as they go back and forth about the lack of guidance and the merit of what they've been filming. Honestly, an entire feature of this would have been really something to behold. A trailer and gallery are also included.
The other film on the same disc is the even less accessible Container, made two years later in 2006; this experimental, plotless, black-and-white puzzler was prepared with English narration (by Jena Malone) and Swedish narration (by Mariha Åberg), both of which are options on the Blu-ray. What we have is essentially a stab at doing an art project a la Tetsuo or Derek Jarman with Peter Lorentzon as a gender-fluid man (and maybe his female consciousness) who goes through a number of grungy settings and possibly gets possessed or reconfigured into different ages and guises. Or something. Meanwhile the narration ruminates on dozens of topics with some kind of connection to what we're seeing and its ostensible setting somewhere around Chernobyl, but beyond that, you're on your own. This one also gets a new interview with the director (19m1s) about the process of putting it together and bringing in Malone to Sweden for a day to record her narration, while "Inside the Container Crypt" (22m14s) from 2007 is about as inscrutable as the feature itself with some guys wandering around in the shadows explaining what they think it's all about. A trailer and a gallery are also included.
From one extreme to the other, disc five features the most traditional Moodysson film of them all with 2009's Mammoth and his only one to feature big-time stars on camera from outside Sweden. Essentially this is his contribution to that "we're all so connected" strain of dramas that erupted in the Oscar-winning wake of Traffic and Crash (including Babel, The Air I Breathe, and Powder Blue), though by this point the novelty had entirely worn off when Mammoth got picked up by IFC. This is actually one of the more tolerable efforts, with Gael García Bernal and Michelle Williams lending some gravitas as Soho-dwelling couple Leo and Ellen Vidales. He's grappling with his own humble life and values that seem at odds to his current wealth working in the video game industry, and his separation abroad in Thailand from Ellen and their daughter, Jackie (Nyweide), who's currently being cared for by their Filipino nanny, Gloria (Necesito), with family issues back home of her own. It's a somber and not entirely successful stab at mainstream acceptance after the director's wild phase, but the soundtrack is great (including the aforementioned Ladytron as well as Cat Power) and it's all skillfully mounted from top to bottom.
In the new 13m43s interview on the Arrow Blu-ray, Moodysson states off the bat that having big Hollywood stars wasn't much of a directorial change of pace for him apart from the nuisance of having more paparazzi following them around. That's not surprising since he shows an able hand here getting solid work from them, and the presentation here is top notch especially given that most countries only got a halfhearted DVD release the first time around. Also included are a new interview line producer Malte Forssell (24m11s) in conversation with Lutton about multiple Moodysson projects, archival promotional interviews with Moodysson (4m2s) and Bernal (5m50s) from the set, the trailer, and a gallery.
Finally Moodysson bounced back in a big way with his most recent film to date and the last one in the set on disc six, We Are the Best! A glorious ode to the spirit of punk rock adapted from a semi-autobiographical graphic novel by his wife Coco, the film takes place just after that music wave had crested as three young Stockholm girls -- Bobo (Barkhammer), Klara (Grosin), and Hedvig (LeMoyne) -- decide to form their own band. With New Wave and other '80s music trends on the rise, they're scorned for dedicating their decidedly untrained efforts on a type of music that's seemingly had its day. One of Moodysson's best films, this feels like a refreshing tonic to close out the set as it works as both a tribute to the camaraderie between the girls and a salute to the spirit of rebellious music that refuses to be pigeonholed as a fad. It's a shame Moodysson took so long to get behind the camera again after this one (though he's certainly kept busy writing) as this feels like a re-energizing labor of love and might make a great intro film if you're new to his work.
Magnolia didn't put a lot of effort into this one when they picked it up for the U.S., right down to the bare bones Blu-ray and DVD releases. Luckily the Arrow Blu-ray corrects that and then some, not only looking and sounding great but featuring a fine sixth and final director interview with Lutton (15m34s) about how he decided to belatedly get back to directing after being inspired by his wife's work. A new virtual interview with cinematographer Ulf Brantås (32m38s) with Lutton about his work on four key films is also worthwhile and a fascinating peek at what makes their look so distinctive, while "A New Expression" (22m14s) takes a look at the background to the film by Swedish punk historian David Andersson. A very enjoyable Q&A from the 2013 London Film Festival screening features Moodysson, LeMoyne, and Barkhammar (16m15s), followed by the trailer and an image gallery.
Reviewed on February 8, 2023.