Show Me Love (Fucking Amal, Denmark-Sweden, 1998)

Love in a cold climate

Love in a cold climate

Director: Lukas Moodysson
Screenplay: Lukas Moodysson
Editors: Michal Leszczylowski & Bernhard Winkler
Music Mixer: Morten Holm
Producers: Lars Jonsson
Cinematographer: Ulf Brantas
Cast: Alexandra Dahlstrom, Rebecca Lijeberg, Erica Carlson & Mathias Rust

Naturalism began in the theatre as a form that tried to erase the obvious contrivance of the medium by constructing the ‘fourth wall’ and so rendering the audience invisible to the players. In addition, actors worked at becoming the characters they played, rather than representing them, and the narratives focused on slices ordinary people’s life.

The ‘fourth’ wall of cinema – in effect, the camera – has always been erased in ‘classical’ film style. To take this a step further naturalistic cinema usually adopts a documentary style, or approach, to filming. The use of handheld camera connotes realism, the soundtrack may be mixed to muffle some dialogue and the characters may not even be played by actors. Show Me Love is a teen pic that magnifies the banality of everyday life in small town Sweden with a lesbian ‘coming of age’ drama. A largely amateur cast play out everyday life:

The inaction reaches fever pitch: Agnes waits for a phone call; Elin abandons a party to hang off a motorway bridge spitting on passing traffic. (Spencer, 2000, p. 52c)

The very banality of the characters’ lives helps signify the film as realist because we are used to seeing glamorous or exciting lives represented in mainstream cinema. The (mildly) controversial subject matter (the degree of shock, if any, is likely to be determined by age and background) of the lesbian love story is typical of Naturalism. In the 19th century, women’s sexual feelings, sexually transmitted diseases and poverty were likely subjects for the form.

Despite its realist credentials Show Me Love is inevitably as constructed as any Hollywood fantasy. The only difference between this small budget Swedish film and, say Spider-Man (2002), which can also be seen as a teen pic, is the codes and conventions it uses.

The fact that, to most audiences in Britain, the film is showing us everyday life in a country they have never visited, and doesn’t get much coverage in the media, reinforces the sense of realism as the film takes on an ethnographic function. We may conclude, having seen the film, that young people are pretty much the same in Sweden.

Naturalism in theatre and literature had a fatalistic element, Show Me Love, however, portrays characters who transcend their social circumstance. The representation of young people is generally sympathetic and homosexuality is shown to be simply a sexuality and only a problem because of entrenched attitudes. A brief surf on the internet revealed a number of sites dedicated to the film (check out links on my site) suggesting that many young people found the film profoundly moving through their identification with the characters.

Moodysson’s follow up Together (Tillsammans, 2000) – using a similarly realistic style – poked gentle fun at a 1970s hippy commune and his most recent feature, Lilja 4-ever (2002), has received critical plaudits in the few places it has been released to date. He is obviously a talent to watch.

Liese Spencer (2000) ‘Show Me Love/Fucking Amal’ Sight and Sound vol.10, No. 3

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3 Responses

  1. Hi really like this movie and Rebecka Liljeberg too

  2. […] Show Me Love (Fucking Amal, Denmark-Sweden, 1998) February 2009 1 comment […]

  3. […] I was out of synch with most critics’ reaction to Together (2000), but loved his debut Show Me Love (aka Fucking Amal, 1998). His next films explored sex trafficking Lila 4-Ever (2002) and […]

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