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STOCKHOLM 2018

Review: X&Y

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- Swedish filmmaker Anna Odell’s second directorial outing is a stimulating ride teetering between the sublime and the ridiculous

Review: X&Y

“I want to investigate identity and what it means to be human. As an artist, I will, together with Mikael Persbrandt, the actor, live in a studio for several periods of time. […] Mikael and I will cast actors, alter egos, who will portray different sides of us. […] Mikael and I will meet with a psychologist in order to process the events. Our work is meant to result in a feature film. […] And the great thing is that no one outside of the project will know what is reality and what is fiction.”

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As Anna Odell introduces her second feature, X&Y [+see also:
trailer
interview: Anna Odell
film profile
]
, premiering in the competition of the Stockholm International Film Festival, she also, quite perfectly, defines her own category of filmmaker: this is first and foremost the art-school graduate who sometimes likes to use the medium of cinema as a form of expression. Those who expected otherwise – like something approaching the “conventional” – should think again.

As a director, she happens to have a natural flair. Her debut, The Reunion [+see also:
film review
trailer
festival scope
film profile
]
, is an intriguing autobiographical account of the tormented school days of a bullied little girl who grew up to be… an investigative art-school graduate. It hit home, also with “conventional” cinemagoers, who entrusted themselves to the hands of the artist who guided the way through The Art Project – an exploration of power structures. Perhaps it was the universal theme dealt with, but no doubt also the personal presence of Odell herself, who became a star in her own right of sorts. She’s that rare person from the art world who crosses over. For this alone, she is to be cherished.

This charismatic side of Odell is also highly visible in X&Y, even as she surrounds herself with a stellar Nordic cast. Jens Albinus (The IdiotsThe Boss of It All [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
), Trine Dyrholm (The Commune [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Thomas Vinterberg
film profile
]
), Sofie Gråbøl (The Killing), Thure Lindhardt (The Bridge), Shanti Roney (Together [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
) and Vera Vitali (Involuntary [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Erik Hemmendorff
interview: Ruben Östlund
film profile
]
Blind [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Eskil Vogt
interview: Eskil Vogt
film profile
]
) are all aboard as alter egos, with Per Ragnar (Let the Right One In [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: John Nordling
interview: Tomas Alfredson
film profile
]
) and Ville Virtanen (Beyond [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
) featuring as psychologists. And, of course, there’s Mikael Persbrandt, the überhunk of the Swedish Noir screen, as Odell’s daredevil sparring partner. Let the games begin.

Sexual games, for one. “I want to do one scene where he penetrates me, and one where I penetrate him,” (a strap-on is mentioned) Odell tells her flabbergasted producers. When Persbrandt admits to identifying with a coyote, she sews a weird-looking bodystocking with fur on the back and a wolf head as a cap. Wearing this, she sets off to seduce him. The project soon incorporates a planned “art baby” pregnancy – ie, conception through two artistic personalities. Cast and crew alike eagerly await a script. Odell keeps on stalling. 

In X&Y, she does not take us by the hand; we’re on our own, possibly as frustrated as Trine Dyrholm is when she barks, “Are there any grown-ups in this production?” Alternatively, we can enjoy a stimulating ride teetering between the sublime and the ridiculous. Odell herself certainly does. “It’s a real art film!” she avows – which makes Dyrholm all the madder. 

X&Y is a Swedish-Danish production staged by B-Reel FilmsFasad ABFilm i VästSveriges Television AB - SVT and Nimbus Film. The international sales are managed by Poland’s New Europe Film Sales.

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