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Lukas Moodysson chooses life

A Swedish film that’s a bittersweet paean to adolescent friendship

Nicholas Barber | March/April 2014

When Lukas Moodysson brought us “Together”, he brought us together. One of the most beloved films of the 21st century, “Together” (2000) was a huggable comedy-drama about growing up in a Stockholm commune in the Seventies. If you’d seen it when it came out, and skipped Moodysson’s later films, you might assume that by now he was a leading chronicler of middle-class dysfunction: a writer-director to rank with Mike Leigh, Alexander Payne and Noah Baumbach. But Moodysson had other ideas. He followed “Together” with “Lilya 4-Ever”, “A Hole in My Heart” and “Container”, three films so bleak and rebarbative that they could have been a deliberate attempt to lose all of the fans he had just won.

Now, nearly 14 years on, we’re getting “Together” again. The glorious “We Are the Best!” finds Moodysson back in Stockholm, and back in the era of his own childhood, his surrogates this time being three tomboys of 12 or 13 who form a punk band in 1982. It’s a bittersweet, thrillingly authentic paean to adolescent friendship and the sheer joy of making a racket with a guitar and drums.

“The starting point was a day in the kitchen when I suddenly felt I had to do something funny,” Moodysson says, by e-mail, “in opposition to the sad novels I had recently written. I had to do something full of life: energy, laughter, euphoria, survival, those kinds of things ...”

“We Are the Best!” has those kinds of things in abundance—but doesn’t it bother him that the film will be seen as a retreat to “Together” territory? “It’s fine if people feel that way,” he replies. “Life is a spiral, you move forward and then you return. This is not the end. I will probably annoy people with a lot of dark inaccessible horrible movies in the future.” ~ Nicholas Barber

We Are the Best! opens in Britain April 18th

 

FILM AT A GLANCE

Under the Skin Jonathan Glazer (“Sexy Beast”, “Birth”) makes his long-awaited return with a bizarre, brilliant horror odyssey which flicks between documentary realism and ultra-stylised, music-video cool. Scarlett Johansson is captivatingly odd as a vampiric alien on the prowl in Scotland.

The Zero Theorem Terry Gilliam gets back to...not his best, but his most Gilliam-ish, with a dystopian satire set in a kitschy steam-punk future. A hairless Christoph Waltz plays a neurotic “entity cruncher” seeking the answer to life, the universe, and everything; David Thewlis supplies Pythonesque mannerisms as his boss.

The Past (opens in Britain, Mar 21st). Asghar Farhadi, whose “A Separation” won an Oscar, moves from Tehran to Paris for an intimate, intricately plotted domestic heartbreaker starring two other award-winners, Bérénice Bejo and Tahar Rahim. Whichever city he is in, Farhadi dives deeper into metropolitan family life than any other film-maker.

Noah (Apr 4th). Darren Aronofsky, the auteur behind “Black Swan”, teams up with Russell Crowe for an SFX-packed biblical epic. The mind boggles, but if anyone can bring the requisite demented grandeur, it’s these two.

The Double (Apr 4th). Jesse Eisenberg and Jesse Eisenberg star as a shy office drone and his diabolical doppelganger in Richard Ayoade’s very funny take on Dostoyevsky.

Calvary (Apr 11th). First “The Guard”, now the priest. John Michael McDonagh follows up his hit debut with another Guinness-black comedy thriller featuring Brendan Gleeson. He plays a rural Irish pastor told in the confessional that he’s about to be murdered. ~ NB

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