Saturday, July 18, 2009

Kungsleden


Kungsleden
Aka My Love and I,
aka Obsession
Sweden, 1964
Thriller, 106 min.
Distributed by: KlubbSuper8


Story:
A middle aged man takes a walk on Kungsleden, a trail that goes through the Northern Swedish highlands. A trail he previously walked ten years ago with his girlfriend Leni. That trip ended in the couple calling off their relationship and each going their separate ways… Even though it was a decade ago he last saw her, the man can’t forget Leni, the only woman he has ever loved, and the further through the trail he gets the more confused he becomes over what really did happen all those years ago on Kungsleden…


Me:
A trippy, enigmatic and amazing flick to say the least. There’s a fair amount of these splendid Swedish gems from the sixties/seventies with directors like Torgny Wickman, Arne Mattson and Bo Arne Wibenius to name a few, showcasing some awesome themes, great imagery, fabulous women and suggestive movies in the wake of Ingmar Bergman’s art house recognition. Most of them where already established national auteurs’ that unfortunately got stood standing in the shadow that I feel Bergman held over loads of Swedish filmmakers for a very very long time.


Director Gunnar Höglund had previously written scripts in the romantic drama area using the topic of lost love in the 1952 movie Han Glömde Henne Aldrig (aka Memory of Love) Kungsleden also builds off the themes of lost love, as “You” [Mattias Henriksson] (“You”, yeah that’s the only name he ever gets in the 106 long movie) walks his trail looking for that long lost girlfriend that he walked away from all those years. The movie flagged the tagline: “A Romantic Thriller” which is rather a bold statement I feel, because the movie is indeed a thriller, but there little or next to no romance within. Tomas Seidevall, the responsible publisher of the KlubbSuper8 DVD's, once told me that the movie could be looked upon as a Fight Club in the Mountains, and after watching the movie I really agree, it is like a Fight Club in the Mountains. The movie is very existential as “You” searches for something during his walks over marshes, crosses rapids, and climbs mountains, pondering the mysteries of his life. It should have been called an Existential Thriller instead, which would have been a much better, because the movie is existential to claim the least. And this is set right from the start with an extremely weird surreal opening sequence where a subjective scene of a woman (It’s Leni, [Maude Adelson] the long lost love, we will understand in a few moments) saying that they can’t continue anymore, not after “that”. The camera pans away and starts walking towards the mountains, stops and looks back at her, who replies with a shake of the head. A no is a no. The camera pans away again and once again walks away from her into the wilderness. Then a sharp cut to a close-up of Leni’s face turning to face the camera, gone is the openness of the mountain range, and instead a claustrophobic darkness surrounds her, and for each time she turns her face towards the camera her facial expressions change. From happy to lustful to scared to blank. And after that rather strange set up (which I’ll get back to later on) the title sequence starts. “You” walks the starting trail and pretty soon he starts seeing and hearing stuff that has him remembering his hike ten years earlier with Leni. Enter the flashbacks. Kungsleden relies heavily on flashbacks that run parallel to the main narrative to tell the tale of what happened ten years back as “You” did the walk with his love Leni. Some are confusing, and some are magnificent. In one the use of crashing porcelain brings us back from a confrontation between the two agitated lovers to the somber “You” left in awe as it all starts coming back to him. It’s a great sequence that is excellently composed. Anyhow, quite quick Leni comes across as a pretty unsympathetic character. She isn’t very nice to “You” as she taunts him when he’s afraid to cross the bridge over the rapids, she teases him at bedtime, she makes fun of him when he awkwardly rolls on a condom before they have sex, she mocks him when he falls into the rive they are crossing, she scolds him when he is fascinated by the Lapps violent marking of their reindeer herds comparing it to the Nazi’s number tattooing of WW2, she laughs at him when he tries to make advances on her, she provokes him when he gets jealous that she’s bathing in the nude and flirting with the strangers that she meets on the mountain, and to top it all off she ignores his hurt emotions and goes out for coffee with the Lapp she just met moments ago instead of staying with the distraught “You”. So no, she isn’t a very likeable character. She annoyed the hell out of me to say the least. But then “You”, who hasn’t been a very considerate character either, rather the opposite, a pretty silly, weak person, overthrows the tables when he misreads the signals and rapes Leni, pushing her further away from him than ever before.

So in the past part of the movie, neither character is especially empathetic, but for some strange reason the older “You” evokes empathy. Those lines uttered by Leni in the flashback before the title sequence, “It’s impossible; you must know that, not now. Perhaps in Ten years time when we both have grown older…” are repeated over and over again as well as the sensory reminders of Leni, the scent of myrrh that she washes her hair with, her questioning of local fauna, the things one remembers from the old times. Which gives some sort of nobility to “You” and his quest for the love he once lost. We still do not know what happened, and as the flashback narrative tells us of the past, we are drawn in by the forward movement of the present narrative because those ten years have passed and we feel that “You” should be redeemed and reunited if possible with Leni. And when the imaginary indicators start turning into reality, Leni’s name in the cabin logbook, the myrrh scent on the pillows, the still burning fire, it all adds to the forward movement as we realize that Leni too has returned to Kungsleden, and if she has returned she may quite well be looking for “You” just as he searches for her. Deep inside of our exploitation loving hearts we are all suckers for a happy ending.


Then the Höglund and Bosse Gustafsson (who wrote the original novel and co-wrote the script with Höglund) throw us a curveball as they show us what happened all those years ago, how “You” driven by his jealousy, guilt from raping Leni and fear of rejection takes drastic actions. Actions so terrible that they still haunt him like the day they occurred. The movie grows very dark and harrowing from this moment. Mentally the older “You” relives in his older state how he buries Leni on the mountain, stumbles into a dark cabin and sees the younger version of himself tossing and turning in post murder angst in the cot on the other side of the room, and finally he has terrifying nightmares as the past catches up with him. (There are also glimpses of a possible accident scenario to add to the confusion) The next morning “You” awakens and meets “The Other” [Lars Lind] who is sharing the room with him, a man possibly ten years his senior, who tells him a strange story about the mountains and how time has no influence there. “You” agrees confusedly and remarks that his watch has stopped since he got on Kungsleden, before he notices (or has visions, jus like the visions of Leni earlier on that lead him to the flashbacks) items that used to belong to Leni, her camera rolls and her scarf… “You” becomes convinced that “The Other” was Leni’s killer and follows him up into the high mountains struggling up sharp rocks and harsh mountain faces just too confront “The Other” with his theories. “The Other” laughs at his accusations, and the fact that “You” suffering from severe vertigo is cowering on a small ledge. Never the less, “The Other” pities “You” and offers to help him down the mountain, even though he’s just accused him of being a murderer. “You” climbs down, but snags the rope on a ledge, and when “The Other” instructs him to loosen the cord he yanks it, sending “The Other” falling down the face of the mountain to his death. “You” gathers strength, climbs down the mountain and without finding the body of “The Other” starts hiking back to civilization. End credits roll…

Now how the hell do you interpret this strange and bizarre movie? Well here’s my take and answers to the clues hidden without the flick. The opening shots of Leni shot from “You’s” point of view and the series of close-ups on her face; well this is in a nutshell the movie isn’t it! The rejection is what drove “You” into his personal hell, and when Leni’s face goes from happy as in the start and finally to the dead face of the drowned Leni in the end represents her journey in four quick shots. Obviously “You” is chasing himself; his own guilt drives him into the mountains searching for answers, as he tries to redeem himself for the events that took place there.

That ending when “The Other” falls from the cliff and there’s no body to be found… Here’s my interpretation; “The Other” is “You” as an older man! Stick with me now, because this is going to get heavy. Remember that dialogue between “The Other” and “You” the morning after his nightmare? “The Other” points out that time means nothing in the mountains. Things that happened years ago could just as easy have happened a few days ago, and vice versa… Then together with that voice over just after the title sequence, that warns not to leave the trails with the words “As long as you wander here on the paths nothing can happen to you…” Well if you pay attention you will notice that “You” cuts his cheek just as he sets foot on solid ground again… hence creating the cut that the middle age version of “You” has had on his face all through out the movie. Time does stand still, the young, middle age and older “You” have never left Kungsleden, he’s trapped there, damned to walk the Kungsleden for all eternity. But when he come face to face with the reality he has been neglecting he is freed, you could say that he redeems himself by creating an imaginary him that killed Leni. By killing himself to live he has now found peace and the last scene before the masters hot of him walking away shows his watch now ticking once again.

Kungsleden is a confusing, strange and facinating movie that definitely is a showcase for Mattias Henriksson who portrays both the middle age and young “You” to such perfection that I on more than one occasion was convinced that it was two different actors. Henriksson stared in a few more movies before ending up playing bit parts in TV serials for the remains of his career, a shame on such a promising actor. But once again there’s that looming shadow of Bergman that I started out talking about.

Apart from the hazy wide shots of desolate landscapes, Kungsleden uses an even stranger soundtrack to add to the mystery. Remember Gene Moore’s evocative Wurlitzer score for Herk Havey’s 1962 Carnival of Souls? Well imagine that on a Hammond organ and you have Karl-Erik Welin’s equally disturbing score for Kungsleden. But all in all it adds up for a really surreal, haunting and enjoyable movie.

Höglund followed up Kungsleden with the 1969 Swedish Sin classic …som havets nakna vind (Aka One Swedish Summer) which caused outrage at the censors, and became known as the “most scolded intercourse movie” for it’s explicit content. If this is what made it sell to over forty countries outside of Sweden I will let go untold, but controversial criticism always adds a fair amount of interest for new titles doesn’t it. Next he directed the raunchy sex comedy Som hon bäddar får han ligga (aka Do You Believe in Swedish Sin?). Both films are available from the guys at KlubbSuper8, and his last directorial effort, the splendid kid’s detective/thriller Dante – Akta-re för Hajen! (Aka Dante, Beware of the Shark!) which I have fond memories of watching as a kid back in the golden age of VCR, is on their TBA list along with the interrelationship melodrama Vill så gärna tro’t (aka Want so Much to Believe) where Christina Scholin falls in love with Robert Nash! Groovy stuff to keep an eye open for or pick up what’s available already now.

Image:
1:16.66, color.

Audio:
Mono, Swedish dialogue, sometimes English with Swedish subtitles burned in. Unfortunately there are no English subtitles, on any of the KlubbSuper8 titles except for Sweden Heaven and Hell, which is a pity as they should subtitle them, so fans of wild and wonderful cinema outside of Sweden can enjoy the gems in their catalogue.

Extras:
A short reel showing the pressbook and poster art for Kungsleden, and trailers for Kungsleden, Aldrig med min kofot, Anaconda, Drrapå –kul grej på väg till Götet, Flamman, Jangada, Johan på snippen, Johan på snippen tar hem spelet, Linje sex, Mord i Marstrand, and Morianerna all available from KlubbSuper8.

Sorry no trailer as KlubbSuper8 haven't upploaded one yet and the only one available encourages you to download the movie, and that is just wrong isn't it. :)

1 comment:

SNy. said...

Här är trailern, embedda den du ;-)

http://blip.tv/file/1026063