Tuesday, 11 September 2007
Keillers Park (Sweden, 2006)
Director: Susanna Edwards.
Principal cast: Mårten Klingberg, Pjotr Giro.
"Keillers Park" is a Swedish film made in 2006 which is loosely based on the story surrounding the tragic death of a 37 year old man in the aforementioned park in the middle of Gothenburg in 1997. His death was a homophobic killing, and although the victim's boyfriend was accused of his murder initially, the real perpetrators were later found and convicted.
What might have been another hate crime story actually turned out to be a film about the belated sexual awakening and coming out of Peter, a 30 something Swedish civil engineer of Latvian origin (yes, isn't that an interesting twist to the story?) who finds his entire existence turned upside down after a chance encounter with Nassim, a gay free spirit born in Algeria, longing to open a "tabac" in Paris, but stuck in the cold climate of Sweden. Giving in to his desire, Peter soon loses the perfect Swedish middle class life he has been leading hitherto - his girlfriend understandably enough walks out on him, his stock conservative father disowns him and throws him out of the family business he was soon to inherit. His former friends want nothing to do with him anymore and he finds it difficult to adjust to the new ones that come with the new territory. However, the personal happiness that seems to have come with the changes in his life still makes up for the losses. Or so he thinks. After a quarrel, Nassim is gone for several days and when he calls in the dead of the night asking for his bag, Peter discovers a plane ticket to Paris in Nassim's name. Shortly thereafter, the police storm Peter's flat, take him into custody and charge him with Nassim's murder.
The story of the two men's relationship is revealed through Peter's interrogation by the police using flashbacks and is never boring, albeit painful to watch at times. The storytelling is strong and somewhat convincing, but I must say, only somewhat. I believe that it's possible to keep such an essential part of one's personality as sexuality at bay for many years, then something triggers one's true essence to come forth and lo and behold - here he is - sharing his bed with another man. I must admit that it sounds slightly out of this world, but yeah, what the hell, I can believe such premise - people are, after all, strange and often inexplicable beings. What I did find a lot less convincing was the apparent ease with which the change came. It may be down to the cliche non-expressive facade of the Nordic people, but it just seemed like Peter really didn't find it particularly hard to, in all essence, lose the ground he had been standing on. Also the culture clash between the orderly mind of a Swedish engineer and that of a free North African spirit was to be expected but I found the way in which it was shown rather perplexing. Nassim simply explodes one night because he's had enough of Peter. The build-up to the scene is simply not sufficient to make me believe such a sudden outburst, especially Peter's reaction. It is instrumental to the plot but it certainly does nothing to present the characters in a more realistic fashion.
Another flaw with the story is that Peter's surroundings in Sweden of our day and age all seem to be so homophobic and prejudiced, especially taking into account that the story takes place in Gothenburg, Sweden's second largest city. The police interrogating Peter make homophobic remarks, his former friends are horrified that he's gay and his father completely abandons him. Although even in Sweden all of this could have happened, the totality of it all doesn't feel all too real. Actually, I could see this film set in Latvia to a higher degree than in Gothenburg, hence the irony of the main character being of Latvian origin. In a way, one could say that this is the first film ever made about a gay Latvian and in that respect the tragedy of it all only seems appropriate. Or not.
Susanna Edwards' first attempt at a full length feature film comes across as solid. The acting is mostly good and the camera work deserves a big compliment. Despite some flaws, "Keillers Park" is certainly worth watching. It's a murder thriller and it's a love story. With a Swedish noir feeling about it.
Here you can watch the film's trailer