[Show Me Love]
Dir: Lukas Moodysson (1998)
What’s it all about?
In Åmål, a small Swedish town, bored 16-year-old Agnes (Rebecka Liljeberg) is a reclusive schoolgirl with few friends, nursing a crush on 14-year-old Elin (Alexandra Dahlström). When Elin gets wind of this she crashes Agnes birthday party, and they share a kiss. Though Elin means this as a cruel joke the two develop a tentative friendship, and perhaps more.
Why haven’t you seen it?
I honestly don’t know, I mean, it’s about gay Swedish schoolgirls… but seriously… Lukas Moodysson’s first film was an arthouse release back in 1998, from a debuting filmmaker, and it never received a DVD release, at least in the UK, until 2006, and then only in a boxset of Moodysson’s first four films.
Why should you see it?
For many reasons, but let’s begin with the kiss. Agnes and Elin only kiss twice in the movie, the first is a peck, initiated by Elin on a dare but the second, in the back of a cab, is one of my favourite kisses in cinema. It’s, brilliantly, scored by Foreigner’s I Want to Know What Love Is, and the girls fall into it with such genuine hunger that you can almost feel it as they get lost in the moment, which is swiftly broken by the cab driver. It’s just one of those cinematic moments that you can find yourself swept up in every time you see it.
Besides that moment there are many other things to recommend the film. Chief among these are the fine performances that Lukas Moodysson drew from his young leads (for once, a film with teenage main characters who look and behave like teenagers). Liljeberg and Dahlstrom both give incredibly natural performances, and make their dialogue sound observed rather than spoken. This is also a testament to Moodysson’s low-key direction and his excellent screenplay, which presents a picture of teenagers closer to reality than you’ll usually see in a coming of age movie. He presents what could be a cliché story – Girl meets Girl, Girl appears to get Girl, Girl loses Girl, Girl attempts to get Girl back – in a fashion so realistic that not only do you get drawn in to the characters and their situation, you forget how often you’ve heard this story before.
Fucking Åmål feels true to life in that it mixes tones freely. There are scenes that are moving, but just as often there are funny moments. These don’t, though, arise out of gags; they come from the characters, particularly Elin, whose extreme outward confidence is often very funny (as when she says “We’re so fucking cool” before diving in to that second kiss). The last scene at Agnes and Elin’s school could have been horrible, sentimental and too neat, but it overcomes the potential pitfalls because Liljeberg (whose quieter performance is the film’s highlight, good as Dahlstrom is) plays it pitch perfectly, and because you are completely with her, and invested in the relationship.
Fucking Åmål is a wonderful film. It’s not always easy, there are a lot of raw scenes that make you feel Agnes’ pain, but it’s so very rare that a film has any visceral effect that films like this should be treasured and shared.
How can you see it?
In the UK the only way is in the aforementioned boxset Four Films by Lukas Moodysson. It’s a good set, also including Together, the brilliant Lilya 4 Ever and the caustic A Hole in my Heart. All three of those come with all the extras from the individual releases, while Show Me Love boasts Moodysson’s fantastic short film Talk as a supplement. The US edition is Region free, but only has trailers as an extra, while the Swedish edition has a commentary with Moodysson, but no English subs. If you can stretch to the box the UK edition is the way to go. That, or just click the title at the top of this post and enjoy.