For any first time writer and director drawing from what you know best is crucial. Martin Scorsese brought us Mean Streets and Taxi Driver after witnessing gang infested streets in his childhood, James Cameron started out with The Terminator after self-educating himself about special effects techniques, and Chris Nolan made his first movie Following, about a writer’s obsession to find a story to write about, after his own obsessions with the works of Stanley Kubrick. For first time writer and director Filip Telegstadt this convention extends even further. His new movie Marianne draws from a collection of some of his favourite horror movies and is shot entirely on location in his home town of Östersund. Some would consider this to be a tad self-indulgent but his personal goal was to make a psychological horror film which people would associate with Sweden: “I wanted to make a horror film because there really haven’t been that many good Swedish horror films. Most of the ones that have been made have been very un-Swedish and Americanized.”
Marianne follows Krister, who after the death of his wife in a freak car accident, is left to fend for himself, with only his 18 year old daughter Sandra who just wishes he would die beside him, and a 6 month old baby he is reluctant to look after. The events surrounding the death of his wife play out in fragments in his sleep, enhanced by the guilt he suffers for being such a lousy father to Sandra. Things take a turn for the worse when his unwavering guilt and self-reproach manifests into uncontrollable delusion, specifically a woman dressed in green who draggles him in his dreams, determined for vengeance. This is the high sign that his wife deserved so much more, Krister needs to sort himself out and right all the wrongs he has done to the people around him who have only ever shown him love and care.
For director Filip Tegstedt, who also wrote the screenplay, the main goal was for the audience to understand Krister’s internal conflict: “I didn’t want to make just your typical haunting film. Usually, hauntings in films are a person dies, then wakes up undead or as a ghost, and gets revenge or something and that’s fine. That’s the classic version of what a haunting is, something external. I wanted to make it internal”. Whilst writing the script he re-watched hundreds of his favourite horror movies to find the story he wanted to tell and personally for him, testing the audience was key to keeping them engaged. Horror can take many forms, but in Marianne the director deftly manipulates the lead character’s fractured psychosis to generate the major thrills – it is the level of uncertainty Krister faces which is the real scare factor, “Krister is put into a position where he doesn’t know if what’s happening to him is real or not and to me that’s scary”.
Filip Tegstedt: I guess if I was to describe Marianne as something, I’d say it was Repulsion meets American Beauty
As I stated before Tegstedt is a horror film nut, and he cited several influences for the movie including Roman Polanski’s Repulsion, Ringu, The Shining and Dark Water. Marianne neatly deals with questions of dreams and nightmares, constructing an honest psychological horror movie, which clearly pays cinematic homage to classics of this genre such as the aforementioned Dark Water, A Nightmare On Elm Street and Don’t Look Now.
The cast delivers some solid performances. Thomas Hedengran is great as the haunted Krister, conveying his frailties and indecision with consistency. Although he is a horrible, nasty piece of work, we end up feeling some form of sympathy for him. For all of Krister’s flaws, Sandra Larsson’s Sandra overwhelms with her vehemence and logic. This is her first film role and she is very effective as the neglected daughter, portraying her character with depth and intensity which will surely captivate your emotion. However, it is more the chemistry between the two leads which draws the audience into the heart of the story. Also Peter Sormare makes a small appearance as Krister’s psychiatrist and although he is not on screen for very long, he is always enjoyable to watch.
Credit has to also go to cinematographer Johan Malmsten, who takes full advantage of the mystical atmosphere of the Swedish Northlands to create a sense of tragedy and restlessness. The supernatural feel created by the pine trees, snowy mountains and lakes of Östersund are finely balanced by the disciplined use of natural light and varied shooting techniques to honour the tangibility of Krister’s situation. The outstanding visuals are complemented by a terrific score from Mikael Junehag, who packs emotional frailty into an ominous undertone, which evolves and delves deeper as we dissect Krister’s mental condition and move towards a chilling climax.
With Marianne, Tegstedt has managed to make a film which is Swedish at its soul and with the right degree of tone, character examination and some genuinely chilling moments; has created a personal yet intrusive, layered story that engrosses from beginning to end. This chilling vision into a man’s psychological exploration of his barrel of guilt, is equally emotionally involving as well as speculatively engaging, because at the core of the story there lies a human charge and for any first time filmmaker this is a considerable achievement.
Here is a teaser trailer for Marianne:
You can follow updates about Marianne at http://www.twitter.com/MarianneMovie