You have to catch the attention of the audience right from the beginning. The opening of a film is so important. Here you have to make an invitation to the viewer, give some basic information that indicates, what he/she can expect but first of all demonstrate that you are a filmmaker, who can create an atmosphere, a tone that makes you curious, that surprises you, that gives you something special, that in this case convinces you that this is personal and not private.
Swedish Sara Broos does so with the first four minutes of her ”Reflections” (”Speglingar” in Swedish). You get a close-up of a young beautiful face in profile and thereafter of an older beautiful face in profile. A fine voice (how attractive the Swedish language is spoken like this) tells us what this is about – mother and daughter together, filmed in Latvia in a house and on a beach. The daughter, Sara, the filmmaker, invited mother Karin, painter, on a trip as a present when she became 60. Sara wanted to ask questions – a classic: I want to know more about you, mother, there is so much I don’t know.
The combination of the text of Sara, the super-stylized arranged images that makes me think of surrealist art, the music, makes you totally drawn into the story. You even get an explanation to the aesthetic chosen; Karin takes photos of Sara and her two sisters as sketches for her paintings.
4 minutes, then on the screen ”Reflections – a film by Sara Broos” and then quite a cut to mother Karin and father Marc in their cosy
living room reading the morning’s newspapers and discussing, who is to descale the coffee machine and who is to feed the birds in the garden… It feels like Sara Broos wants to bring the film down to earth: hey we are humans like you are, a surprising and funny scene.
And then Sara and we get to know the mother’s story from when she grew up in the 70’es, tried alcohol and drugs and men, travelled… and had for years a severe crisis of bulimia. As had Sara who always wanted to be like her mother. There is a shift from mother’s to daughter’s story, there is pain but also joyful conversations between the two of them. And there is a terrible memory about a stillbirth, where Sara who waited excitingly to become a big sister never got to see the dead child. Why not, she asks.
The title’s double meaning comes out not only explicitly in the visual side of the film but also in the voice-off text of Sara, who thinks back on a chaotic childhood in an artist family, ”but there was always order in my room”. Slowly in the process of conveying her mother’s story reveal her own growing-up with crisis and getting finally to accept her own body.
It is told through use of archive photos and home video/film footage, sometimes the images are double-exposed and in a tone that changes with a change of the character of music, a couple of times with almost abstract-image sequences of experimental character. And then back to the stylized, to mother and her paintings and her face in front of the mirror putting on make-up, once accompanied by a wonderful anecdote about a woman they met in Jurmala who wanted to sell wrinkle cream. Yes, there is also a lot for us 60+, about aging.
Any objections? Well, more in the direction of taste. I have always thought that Swedish masters like Bergman and Stefan Jarl (in his nature films) sometimes became too solemn and used too many obvious symbols – Swedish Sara Broos does the same a couple of times. A matter of taste, the cinematic talent is indispensable.
Sweden, 2016, 76 mins.