Director – Filip Tegstedt
Starring – Thomas Hedengran, Sandra Larsson, Dylan M. Johansson
Language – Swedish with English subtitles
Run Time – 1hr 42mins
A family go on a trip to some woods during which the father, Krister (Hedengran), sneaks away to talk to his mistress on his phone. His young daughter over hears him.
The girl grows up to be Sandra (Larsson). Her mother has just died in a horrible car crash on a bridge leaving Sandra with just her father and newborn baby sister. Sandra is upset with what has happened to her mother as well as her fathers on/off affairs from over the years. Krister seems to be ignoring it and going about his life as if nothing has happened. Krister starts to find it hard falling asleep, then feels going to sleep will cause something bad to happen to him. He imagines that a mysterious woman is visiting him in the night and wants to kill him. His ice-cold demeanour starts to crack as he becomes paranoid that something terrible will happen to him.
What starts out as a movie about a family bereavement turns into a dark, psychological story of a man being plagued by what appears to be a demon of Swedish/Norse folklore. It’s a slow burning and entertaining journey.
The horror of what happens in someone’s head following a traumatic event is the main plot point of Marianne. The character of Krister is left detached from the rest of the world following the accident on the bridge. It is through this detachment that the bulk of his psychological issues arise. At first he seems to be a bullish, unemotional man although the façade begins to drop during meetings with his therapist Sven. Krister eventually changes, from a man who doesn’t indulge in emotions to a man who is so desperate to deal with the night terrors he willingly does whatever Stiff tells him. It’s a startling transformation that shows Krister knows more than he is letting on, why else would it happen?
It is the character of Stiff that is ultimately the only one that stands by Krister when his talk of being harassed takes over his life. At the start of Marianne he is treated as a hopeless pothead that isn’t the ideal boyfriend for the daughter Sandra. His talk of Swedish folklore is dismissed and he is belittled. But when Krister fears sleep and what it brings causes a dramatic shift in emotions towards Stiff as Krister seeks his advice on dream-catchers and how to stop evil spirits entering the house. The role of Stiff is also there to help explain to viewers the story of the Mare: an evil spirit responsible for nightmares. It’s fitting that the only person to believe Krister is the same person he treated with disdain.
Thomas Hedengran, as the struggling Krister, is the outstanding performer in Marianne. He comes across as a serious, logical man who resists giving in to emotions, even when his loved ones die. Of course he is a man with a secret so the character will be use to putting on a pokerface. Sandra Larsson as the teenage daughter seems to be the emotional one as she screams at her father and storms out of the house during numerous scenes. Larsson has a chemistry with Hedengran that allows their many tension filled scenes to feel authentic.
The direction is solid, most notably during the moments when the Mare ‘visits’ Krister as he is drifting into sleep. You see hints or brief glimpses of this spirit as it is lurking over the bed, leaning over into the face of the distressed man. It creates an atmosphere of claustrophobia which some readers may have experienced. The inability to fully sleep as something feels ‘wrong’ or uncanny about your surroundings is un-nerving. Tegstedt has realized just how horrible the thought of being watched over as you sleep can be and exploits this wonderfully. The opening sequence of the camera following a car is very reminiscent of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining (1980) – the camera up in the air moving backwards as a car, containing Krister and family, drives forward.
A disturbing portrayal of bereavement and sleep deprivation, Marianne is a brooding Swedish film that is worth seeing alongside other recent horror hits of Sweden like Let the Right One In and Wither.
7 out of 10.
Marianne Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/MarianneMovie
Available on region 2 DVD, and online via iTunes, Vimeo and more.