When you only pick 10 films or so out of over 300, you have to be choosy. It helps to have some semblance of a system. Me? I like to try and squeeze in at least one "I have no idea what this is about, but it sounds cool" film. They also tend to be from Scandinavian countries for some reason.
This year it was Apan (The Ape), from Sweden's Jesper Ganslandt.
And as has been pointed out time and again, it's not a film you should give plot details about, since the whole film hinges on you NOT knowing what happens or what exactly is happening. In fact, the lead actor himself was led from location to location without being told what was happening next.
The main character wakes up on a bathroom floor, heads to work, and starts losing his cool at people. From there his day progresses. That's about all I'll say plot-wise.
But this isn't a surrealist piece, there are no wonky visions or Lynchian characters or scenes to confuse you. The story itself seems fairly straightforward. It could be called postmodern though.
The camera stays close to the protagonist, Krister, for the duration of the film, following him as he attempts to keep it together. Olle Sarri plays the man on the edge of nervous breakdown well, and the scant dialogue punctuated with amplified cacophonies of surrounding noises does an admirable job of bringing the audience into his world. In fact, the loud cues are what I really noticed, be it during a tennis game, near a passing train, or just the sound of a door slamming shut.
North American audiences tend to like having their stories wrapped up for them, and their plots explained at the end of the film. We want to pat ourselves on the back for being oh-so-smart and figuring everything out. We want validation from the filmmaker that we understood their film. This movie doesn't give this. It ends abruptly, like having a puzzle nearly complete and then realizing you're missing the final pieces of the scene - you know what the picture is supposed to be, but you're left with the slightest doubts about the details.
This was met with groans by the audience I was with. They'd been engrossed for 80 minutes by a story they didn't fully understand, but when it wasn't wrapped up for them with a neat little bow, they rebelled. Critics next to me said "are you kidding?" deeming it the worst movie they've seen at the fest. People behind complained to each other about how they had been enjoying the movie up to the end, but now were pissed off that the climax never happened.
I just shook my head at their reactions. For they failed to see that they were putting their own inability to think for themselves on display. Here was an engrossing piece that had held them rapt for its duration, and now they turned on it because its conclusion was left open to their interpretation.
Ganslandt has made a movie where the details of the cause are unimportant, and the effect is the focus. We start at scene 2, not scene 1, and end at the penultimate act instead of the finale. The point is the character, and the psychological effects of his actions, not the initiating actions themselves. We instinctively know what happened, and how it well end, it doesn't need to be spoon fed to us.
I walked out a touch confused myself, and wasn't entirely sure I enjoyed it. But now that I've finished this review an reanalyzed what I've seen, I realize that it worked exactly as it should have. I was on the brink of passing out when I walked into the theatre, purely from exhaustion, and it kept me awake and rapt for its duration. The film then forced me to think about it as my day continued, and spend time analyzing what its goals were. If that's not successful execution of art, then I don't know what is.