Swedish filmmaker, Axel Petersen’s debut feature is bound to impress at the Melbourne International Film Festival
It's a good thing eighties rock band Roxy Music had a penchant for lovely, wistful melodies, because Swedish filmmaker Axel Petersen's gritty, realist piece, Avalon, which will make its Australian premiere at MIFF this week, really needed something soft. Like the song, Avalon is a film you'll try and fail to get out of your head.
Janne (Johannes Brost) is a sixty-something ex-party boy who never really settled into the ‘ex' part. Returning to seaside Swedish destination, Bostard, after time spent under house arrest, Janne keeps himself in the game through dodgy dealings in the real estate market, assisting friend and business partner, Klas (Peter Carlberg), to promote a new nightclub in the fashionable beachside district. Somewhat the gopher to Klas's better head for business, Janne is a dreamer, seemingly lost in his own life. When Janne and his simarly minded sister (Leonore Ekstrand) return from a wanton day on the town, they are involved in in accident that will drag them deeper into the wasteland of hopelessness their lives have become. A gritty, realistic piece without a moment of displaced optimism, Avalon is Petersen's first feature, and took out the Fipresci award at the Toronto Film Festival last year.
Fans of Scandanavian film, television and fiction will recognise that the darker side seems to come naturally to the Swedes (the inevitable cliches that it must come from spending so much time in the light). But for Petersen, it's more about a feeling.
"I think [film] is a physical experience, then intellectual - not the other way around," says Petersen. "I guess it's something that starts in the stomach, and then maybe travels to your mind, and to your intellect. You have to start with the guts and work your way up."
It's all in the family, too. Petersen's aunt played Janne's sister in the film. And while Petersen's art - his first exhibition was the video installation ‘Like Father, Like Son, Like Michael Douglas,' which opened to acclaim in Stockholm earlier this year - explores the generation gaps between father and son, Avalon comments on the inability of one generation to give way to the next. The ‘Peter Pan' mentality is something Petersen saw in his parents' friends as a teenager, but Avalon has identified with a wider audience.
"Some people have seen the movie and say that it has some sort of metaphor for my generation. That they can see themselves being like this. Which was not my intention, but I can see it," says Petersen, who recognises that one day, he might have trouble letting go. "I'm sure that I will be exactly like that," he laughs.
Avalon screens at MIFF on Saturday, August 4 at 9pm and Sunday, August 5 at4pm. For more information, head here.