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Michelle Thomas

Published Sep 16th, 2004 | by Michelle Thomas

Daybreak Review

Classification: 15 Director: Bjorn Runge Rating: 1/5

With the myth persisting that Swedes are prone to taking their own lives, before writing this review I quickly googled ‘Sweden suicide rates’. Disappointingly, I found out that Swedish people are nothing special in the suicidal league tables and in fact much less likely to kill themselves that people from the former Soviet bloc. Morbid much? I hear you cry. Stay with me, gentle reader. All will be revealed.

Agnes (August) and Rickard (Eklund), a married couple with two sons, enjoy all the trappings of a successful middle class existence. An eminent heart surgeon, he’s waiting to hear about a new job in Malmo; Agnes thinks he already has the job, as they have sold their beautiful house. Their best friends Sofie (Richardson) and Mats (Andree) are invited for dinner – they also have some news, and a few unpleasant surprises up their sleeves.

Anita (Petren) was unceremoniously dumped by her husband Olof (Andersson) when he fell in love with Petra (Krepper), a much younger woman. Anita ekes out a perilous existence dealing prescription drugs; she dwells bitterly on her sense of injustice as she imagines her ex and his new wife in their comfortable home. One evening, when it all gets too much, she decides to pay them a visit.

Anders (Krepper) is a builder with a good heart; he works seven days a week to give his wife and daughter all the material things that he thinks they need. His wife tries to tell him that they would rather have his time, and he means to stop, but then he meets Knut (Hirdwall) and his wife Mona (Lindstrom), who need a builder. They offer Anders a cash-in-hand job that he cannot refuse.

The film interweaves these three stories during the course of a single night that ends at Daybreak (how symbolic). I was very tired when I went to see it, which probably didn’t help, but I scribbled down some notes during the screening, which I transcribe for you here:

  • Terrible soundtrack.
  • Miserable people.
  • Depressing tale of urban blight.
  • Bunch of freaks.
  • Dispels myth about attractiveness of Scandinavians.
  • 2 equally weird/random groupings and then the more banal infidelity/professional jealousy.
  • Incredible quantities of alcohol.
  • Violent.
  • Noisy.
  • Depressing.
  • 108 minutes has never felt so long.

Daybreak is one of those films where the director seems to have confused misery with profundity. All the actors seem to have been instructed to shout and chew the scenery – there’s scene after scene with everyone yelling and arguing and it’s headache-inducing. It employs the least interesting aspects of Dogme-style indie film-making – drab clothing, make-up free faces, dull interiors – but forgets the key that made the best Dogme work riveting: script and performance. The characters in the film are all presented as isolated, lost, desperate; a common enough condition and, in the face of their aggressive response, difficult to sympathise with. Anita goes off the rails; her desire for closure and some sort of answers becomes almost pathological. Rickard is a serial philanderer – as well as impregnating his best friend’s wife, he has had so many affairs that he has lost count – and a liar. Sofie and Mats are consumed with jealousy. Anders is so busy working that he doesn’t even notice that his daughter is growing up. Knut and Mona are planning to entomb themselves in their home rather than deal with the pain of living.

Well, grow up.

Which is, I think, what the various resolutions try to do, but by that time I had long since ceased to care.


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