Neil Triffett’s comedic musical EMO: The Musical premiered at last year’s Melbourne International Film Festival and earlier this year played to great buzz at the Berlin Film Festival. We spoke with Neil in Berlin.
Luke Eve’s web series, High Life provides a highly visceral depiction of mental health issues and their impact if they remain unacknowledged and ignored. High school girl, Gen Barrett (rising star Odessa Young from The Daughter and Looking For Grace) is getting ready for her year 12 exams. She is an excellent student, sexually innocent and possesses an exquisite musical talent. On the outside, Gen seems like she has it all figured out. From the beginning however, cracks in her perfect facade begin to form as Gen is about to have her first bipolar disorder manic episode.
High Life comes on the heels of Luke Eve’s independent web series, Low Life, a black comedy about depression, signalling the personal nature of the material. The series is comprised of six ten minute episodes (The Ascent, The Rush, The Twist, The Pinnacle, The Fall, The Return), which works equally well as a singular one hour piece. The way it is split up into episodes, however, is striking. Rather than being solely time based, each episode is a distinct compartmentalised chapter representing a significant phase in the story. All end with a cliff hanger and the pause between watching them allows time to absorb and reflect on the content before moving on.
With Gen as our guide, the audience are taken on an all access tour to understanding her deepest feelings and innermost thoughts. Odessa Young triumphs in this role. Her performance is honest and natural, making Gen a loveable character who you come to care about and enjoy in a rather short amount of time. The series is distinctly Australian but also universally relatable. While it does delve into dark themes, at times it is also humorous and whimsical. High Life is definitely worth a watch.
Hannes Holm’s Swedish comedy drama beautifully explores the life of the neighbourhood’s resident old grump, Ove (Rolf Lassgard). The film was a major critical success in Europe and was the winner of Best European Comedy at the 2016 European Film Awards. It also made a fantastic impression on Hollywood and was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film and Best Makeup and Hairstyling (primarily for Lassgard’s transformation) at the 2017 Academy Awards.
59 years old and widowed, Ove is cynical, antisocial and impatiently wishes to reunite with his deceased wife. Just as he is about to attempt suicide, he is interrupted by the sound of his new neighbours, pregnant Persian immigrant Parvaneh (Bahar Pars), her Swedish husband and two young daughters. While they start as yet another annoying disturbance to Ove’s regimented suburban life, they become next-to-kin friends who bring light into his life which he had already given up on.
As well as being depressed about his wife, Ove is also fired from his job after working diligently for 42 years. You can feel his frustration as the two stupid men in their twenties remind him of the increasing digitalisation of the workforce, showing no respect for their hard working senior. Ove, who had felt useless and left behind by the world, discovers his power to significantly help his new friends. As the story progresses, we learn about Ove’s past, his experience with death, tragedy and loss as well as his dance with romance and well-earned achievements. As he opens up, the grumpy old man exterior does little to hide his big heart, his distinctly Swedish and charming wit and love for others.
Ove’s character and outlook on life is very similar to that of Jep Gambardella in Paolo Sorrentino’s Italian art drama, The Great Beauty. In a sense, you could say that The Great Beauty is a reversal of A Man Called Ove as Jep must find distance in order to find himself while Ove needs to reconnect with people in order to do the same. Both contain the same melancholy undertones of death and the hopes of new life and discovery.
A Man Called Ove triumphantly highlights the spontaneity of life. While it may cause pain, you must not give up as great happiness can be found just around the corner, across the road or next door. It inspires us all to keep living on and striving forward. While our pasts are precious and must never be forgotten, it is important to remember that those events are behind us and new opportunities await us in the future.