Thursday, November 15, 2012

Simon & The Oaks

Writes Alison Willmore: Ponderous and heavy with its own importance, Simon And The Oaks is the kind of film that’s made for awards—it nabbed 13 nominations in Sweden’s equivalent of the Oscars last year. Adapted from a 1985 novel by Marianne Fredriksson and directed by Lisa Ohlin, the film spans the years during and after World War II, as two boys grow up in an idyllic setting during a dark era in history, and their families become entangled in ways both business and personal. With beautiful period trappings and picturesque backdrops, the film doesn’t skimp on visual details, though the resulting product is inert. The characters rarely seem like more than types as they navigate through the war and look toward the future.

The eponymous protagonist, played by Jonatan S. Wächter as a child and Bill Skarsgård (Stellan Skarsgård’s son) as a young man, grows up in the care of working-class couple Helen Sjöholm and Stefan Gödicke. They love him, but Gödicke is frequently frustrated with the fact that the boy has no interest in roughhousing with friends. Instead, he prefers to spend time reading in a perch built in his favorite tree. At school, Wächter befriends a Jewish boy whose wealthy family moved from Germany to Sweden, where they’re warily keeping track of the war’s development; his mother (Lena Nylén) is afraid to leave the house, while his father (Jan Josef Liefers) is more circumspect and hopeful about life after the conflict.
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