‘A Serious Game’ (‘Den allvarsamma leken’): Berlin Review

Actress-turned-director Pernilla Aug tackles a 1912 Swedish literary classical in her second feature, a turn-of-the-20th-century play of adore and adultery.

Classic novel about immoderate passion and erosive adultery mostly tends to lay stiffly on a shade when lacking a impressive contemporary perspective, as evidenced by new attempts to film novels like Therese Raquin and Madame Bovary. Bodice-ripping extramarital movement is so final century. Veteran Swedish singer Pernilla August’s second underline as executive (following 2010’s Beyond) can’t shun that fatigue. Adapted by Lone Scherfig from a 1912 novel by Hjalmar Soderberg, A Serious Game is an unexceptional dress melodrama that will customarily be of seductiveness during home, where lovers of a book can fill in a blank texture.

Filmed twice before, in 1945 and 1977, a story chronicles a lifelong adore that’s thwarted and afterwards blooms in tip usually to be curtailed again and again, a festering after-effects causing pain for a lovers and for a unfortunates in their orbit. Scherfig — who wrote her dermatitis film, Italian for Beginners, yet some-more recently has worked with other screenwriters, like Nick Hornby on An Education — plots a unhappy intrigue in a plodding conform over dual laziness hours that are skinny on educational amicable context, slipping into a unchanging rinse-and-repeat cycle of anguish and ecstasy.

Part of a emanate is casting, utterly in a film in that a rather naive visible character suggests that emotive opening is a director’s categorical concern. The leads are ideally capable, and they don’t reason behind in conveying a tender feeling of dual people evermore conflicted over their choices. But conjunction of them has utterly a glamour indispensable to authority a shade and reason us serf in their world.

Arvid Stjarnblom (Sverrir Gudnason) is a new proofreader during a Stockholm journal as a story begins. He meets Lydia Stille (Karin Franz Korlof) and her serious eyebrows for a initial time when his editor-in-chief, Markel (Michael Nyqvist), takes him along to talk her father Anders (Goran Ragnerstam), a boozing painter, during their rickety cabin on an island in a Stockholm archipelago. A few suggestive glances, some soft-spoken difference and a brush of fingers during a piano are all it takes to sign their love. (That tinkling piano design is listened to genocide via a movie.) Lydia gives him one of her watercolors; on a behind are created a words: “Away. we prolonged to get away.”

She gets divided when her father dies, usually not far, given he left her penniless. But Arvid, now promoted to museum and uncover critic, hesitates when he has a event to marry her, since of aspiration or or misery or honour or other factors not unequivocally explained by a movie. “I have nothing. we am nothing,” he says, suggesting surreptitious trysts, that she refuses. Instead she marries a rich comparison man, Roslin (Sven Nordin), and has a daughter. Arvid also marries for money, selected by rather than selecting a flattering and appreciative Dagmar (Liv Mjones, excellent); he produces a daughter of his own. The particular brood of Lydia and Arvid are named Marianne and Anne Marie, suggesting a counterpart images of their situations.

Scherfig drops in mentions of amicable shake as women debate for a vote. This seems to be dictated to underscore both a restraints of Swedish multitude during a time and a ignition fire within Lydia as she attempts to drive her possess destiny, mostly oblivious of a consequences. But while she goes by a motions, a character’s arc never acquires most thematic heft, over being a plant of her bad choices, as is a frustratingly pacifist Arvid with his.

There’s an unsound clarity of a flitting of time, yet it appears to be about a decade after when Lydia and Arvid accommodate by possibility with their spouses — during a opening of that slut uncover Carmen, significantly. While he attempts to resist, she seduces him a subsequent day during her hotel. Lydia afterwards becomes some-more assertive about securing her complacency with Arvid, yet he stays committed to his family. He does container Dagmar and Anne Marie off for a summer holiday, concomitant Lydia behind to her childhood island home for some frolicsome time in a sun. But when a illness of Arvid’s father (Staffan Gothe) army him to cut brief that idyll, Lydia is implacable.

August’s film has some appreciative moments of understatement, such as a peaceful grin that crosses Anders’ lips as he gazes during his initial byline, and his wordless beating when his father seems unimpressed. The discerning aged man’s deathbed warning that complacency can move hurt also resonates, as Dagmar overhears and rightly interprets it to meant that her matrimony is in trouble.

But via a film, there’s a whinging feeling that most of a novelistic fact that competence have brought this story to life has been shed. That applies, for instance, to a journal bureau scenes, yet Nyqvist brings a comfortable hint to his role. Mikkel Boe Folsgaard (memorable as a frivolous aristocrat in A Royal Affair) also has a relocating stage as a paper’s unfamiliar correspondent, whose past ties to Lydia resurface inconveniently.

Despite a low good of sadness, however, a film stays a regretful elegy with minimal pathos. It’s also a small drab for a duration piece. Aug and cinematographer Erik Molberg Hansen have selected to fire in a aged boxy 1.33 aspect ratio, widening a support usually for anniversary transition shots. (This device was hindered by masking problems during a Berlin press screening.) It creates cultured clarity as a approach of display a characters’ confinement, yet adds to a close televisual feel. Shooting with handheld cameras also in speculation should relate a turmoil of people constantly seizing complacency to have it trip by their fingers, yet it looks careless rather than stylistically effective.

A Serious Game isn’t bad so most as pedestrian, recalling conventionalist Euro films from 20 or 30 years ago. But it lacks a star energy or electric chemistry to make us caring really deeply about a hindered romance.

Venue: Berlin Film Festival (Berlinale Special)
Production company: B-Reel Films
Cast: Sverrir Gudnason, Karin Franz Korlof, Liv Mjones, Michael Nyqvist, Goran Ragnerstam, Mikkel Boe Folsgaard, Sven Nordin, Richard Forsgren, Staffan Gothe, Goran Ragnerstam
Director: Pernilla August
Screenwriter: Lone Scherfig, formed on a novel by Hjalmar Soderberg
Producers: Patrik Andersson, Frida Bargo, Fredrik Heinig
Executive producer: Mattias Nohrborg
Director of photography: Erik Molberg Hansen
Production designer: Anna Asp
Costume designer: Kicki Ilander
Music: Matti Bye
Editor: Asa Mossberg
Casting: Jeanette Klintberg
Sales: TrustNordisk

Not rated, 115 minutes