Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Show Me Love (1998)

Show Me Love (Lukas Moodysson, 1998)
Swedish Title: Fucking Åmål

The original title of the film is "Fucking Åmål," referring to the overall attitude one of the characters have for her small hometown. Elin (Alexandra Dahlström) is Åmål's prettiest sixteen year old girl. She's shallow and rumors conceive her as a loose girl, which isn't exactly false. While she's still a virgin, she flirts and makes out with almost everyone while complaining how boring it is to live in her small burg (she whines about how everything is late in her town, that the "in" things are already "out" when they arrive in her town, referring to rave parties). Agnes (Rebecka Liljeberg) has lived in the town for two years but hasn't exactly made enough friends On her birthday, her mom decides to put up a party for which she disagrees to, embarrassed by the fact that no one will be coming. Agnes is lesbian, and is in love with pretty Elin.

Bored and without nothing new to do, Elin and her sister decides to just go to Agnes' party. Elin's sister dares Elin to give Agnes a kiss for twenty crowns. She agrees, but then, she subsequently retreats and instead, leaves the melancholic party to hang out with the popular kids in town. After a while, she returns to Agnes and the two dare each other to hitch a ride to Stockholm. Inside the car, as the radio plays the song "I Wanna Know What Love Is," the two continue the kiss Elin suddenly terminated during the party. The two have fallen in love, but is now faced by the stigma that attaches to lesbian relationships.

Show Me Love is Swedish director Lukas Moodysson's first feature film. It's quite remarkably well-made. Moodysson, despite the frequent amateurish techniques (sloppy close-ups, incongruent camera movements), possesses an immaculate detailing of the small-town teenage issues and a loving understanding on the dilemma that falls upon the two characters. Moodysson might be a little more affectionate towards the pathetic Agnes, who spends her time writing secret notes in her personal computer and hanging out with an also-friendless girl who is reduced to her wheelchair and disabled basketball matches. Elin is portrayed as the sexual gravitational center of the small town --- attracting the timid nice guy Johan (Mathias Rust) to admire her and subsequently court her. Elin's reaction is less than admirable, using Johan as a cover for her secret homosexual longings. Moodysson's portrayal of Elin is problematic turning her turn-around a bit surprising and unrealistic, despite its beautifully emotional heftiness.

Show Me Love remains to be Moodysson's most sincere film (although I haven't seen Together (2000)). Here, he isn't faced with pressing issues such as white slavery in his highly acclaimed Lilya 4-Ever (2002). He isn't belittled by the shocking imagery of A Hole in My Heart (2004; although there are painful sequences here such as Agnes's suicidal attempts), or experimentations as in his latest, Container (2006). Moodysson concentrates primarily on the compelling development of teenage romances, which probably resulted from the rebellious trait that springs forth from the absolute boredom and predictability of their sleepy little town. Also, Moodysson is at his most emotionally convincing self here. His use of songs, his on-the-point visuals, his relative ease in bringing out excellent performances from the young cast, culminates in those gorgeous moments wherein the characters are faced with seemingly petty dilemmas, but to them, would mean the world. With Show Me Love, Moodysson seems to have achieved the difficult --- he has expanded small-town teenage conflicts and angst into a pressing and emotionally rich tale of romance against all odds.

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