Review: Storm

Storm is the first feature movie from the Swedish genre wiz-kids Mårlind & Stein, a directing duo which will go far if their current output is something to go by. Storm deals with supernatural elements in a science-fiction thriller that is unique in Scandinavia.

The story slowly unfolds, as we meet DD (Eric Ericson) during a huge storm on the Swedish east coast. DD is a young urban journalist who is involuntarily drawn into a game of alternate worlds, manipulated consciousness and his own past. He accidentally (at least it seems so) meets a woman, Lova (played by Eva Röse) who gives him a small box, an item also chased by a man of unknown origins, perhaps a demon? Freak incidents happen, and slowly DD understands what is going on. At least they appear to be going on…

Before you continue to read, you should know that there are spoilers in the next paragraph that will explain things you may not want to know, in order to get a complete movie experience. Skip the review if you expect to watch Storm and don’t want to know details.

The previous project from Mårlind & Stein was a supernatural TV miniseries, and Storm follows up with a theme that is not completely removed from that genre. However, this time the focus is personal and smaller.storm poster I think very few fantasy thrillers and sci-fi films manage to be deeply personal the way Storm is, so already there you have something unique that remotes itself from the saving-the-world-type movie. Storm is also more clever than most movies, in the sense that you spend the first half of the movie wondering what everything is about – a mystery which is solved in the latter half – and you will realize that the movie needs to be dished out like that. The first half of the film appears to be badly written, because it is completely story driven with no character depth, and you start to wonder if the film is shallow all the way through. Then, at the half mark you start to realize that the lack of character depth in DD is actually character depth in itself, because of events in his past. Put short, he was forced to desensitise himself because of mean things he did as a boy, and as a self-indulgent adult trying to suppress his childhood there can be no emotions to speak of, hence no emotions to show us as viewers. There is a physical hint about this early on; DD explains he has had no skin surface sensation since childhood (probably some kind of disease) but even though this point is not explored further, it serves as a hint about the development of DD as a character. If you can piece this together, you are getting a very interesting character arc.

But that is not the only interesting thing about the film. It has many elements of science fiction as well. Alternate worlds, time travel (in the form of über-realistic memory flashbacks) and sensory manipulation that is either magic, alien technology or psychotic delusion. But whatever it is, where does it come from? And what has the storm to do with all this, as it triggers all the freaky events? My opinion is that the storm represents an outside force, perhaps God, with a mission to educate DD about his own life and place in the world. Why God would do this, I don’t know, perhaps out of pure kindness. There is also a couple of scenes where a superhero comic book becomes alive, or rather it is DD walking into the comic book pages and they becomes his reality. It’s not exactly Sin City, but when you know that DD lives in a pop culture world (his job is to review games, movies and parties) it is appropriate to suggest that he does not always know the difference between fact and fiction in terms of what is happening to him. The mystery woman Lova is a character in the comic book, so when she kisses DD, is it his mind that is influenced too much by escapist entertainment, or is it really happening?

The movie’s visual style is mostly a scheme of darkness and light, or shades of black and white. But not in a very obvious nor stylistic way. The differences are subtle, and you will probably think that the darkness is only due to the movie taking place at night, but the only two dominant colours are gradiations of white/grey and black/darkness. For example, the bright lights in DD’s brother’s room, the grey mist that is always present during daytime, the white police cars and the white nurse’s uniform. Few other colours stand out, perhaps only the red hair of Lova. I am not sure it symbolizes something, possibly warmth or love, as she does show DD affection, plus the fact that Lova almost is “love” (the name Love is generally a male name in Sweden, so Eva Röse’s character was given the female version Lova in stead). The use of colours (or lack of them) enhance the atmosphere of this film, and is particularly important for Scandinavian genre films because the budget is always relatively small, so you have to be creative with no-cost elements, such as light, cinematography and story. The colours are used to good effect here, as they are not intrusive, but still have meaning.

How about action then? The action mostly takes place in the story itself, with good plot twists and a good pacing. Stuff happens all the time to keep your mind occupied, but there are a few adrenalin action scenes also. Sadly, they are letdowns. They are not filmed or edited good enough. The choreography lacks as well. Eva Röse has most of those scenes and while she is a good actress and a tough girl, she is not a stunt woman and the directors did not succeed in hiding that. It strikes me that in order to afford straight action, they had to script and shoot the sequences as cheap as possible. However, these shortcomings are few, and will not ruin the overall impression.

On another note, it is very clear that the directors are genre fans because there are references to other films throughout the movie. Especially THX 1138, the early 1970s George Lucas film. But if one were to compare the film to other films, The Matrix comes closer in the sense that Storm also deals with alternate worlds and perception of reality. And we have the dark Blade Runner visual style as well, except things are not futuristic in present day Stockholm. (In other references, DD’s urban pop culture world is also underlined by a very brief cameo by Bingo Rimér, Swedens most famous pinup photographer.)

It is really impressive how the film manages to combine deep psychological drama with sci-fi elements and a supernatural mystery without ever loosing it’s edge. There are many layers in this film in terms of it’s story, and you can probably watch it several times without being bored, but you have to deal with character drama as much as sci-fi to fully enjoy it. Storm is not “hardware sci-fi” but intellectual and conceptual sci-fi, which is not only executed well here, but also very refreshing as a Swedish movie, as they mostly make crime thrillers and social commentary drama over there.

Do I dare say Storm is a cross between Ingmar Bergman and Steven Spielberg?

Rated 8 of 10.

Directors: Måns Mårlind & Björn Stein
Sweden, 2005

Please forgive this German trailer; it was all we could find. It’ll still give you an impression of the film.

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