Review: Marianne

The debut feature of director-writer Filip Tegstedt, Marianne is a solid and haunting story about nightmares, a broken family and mental pain… which may not only be in the minds of the sufferers.

In the Swedish chiller Marianne, Tomas Hedengran plays Krister, a middle aged teacher and father of two daughters. His wife was killed in a car accident, but as if that wasn’t enough, his goth daughter (Sandra Larsson) is turning against him, and Krister develops a psychosis, nightmares and horrible visions. His life is slowly but firmly crushed to pieces, although what he and his psychoterapist (Peter Stormare) first believes are just post-traumatic stress, may in reality be a creature from another world. Krister gets more and more desperate, to the point where he almost looses his sanity.

Family fathers with emotional trouble – it sounds like a very Swedish movie, and it is. From the beautiful scenery of Östersund in Northern Sweden, to the realistic troubles of youth and romantic affairs with non-wives, Marianne is to a great extent what you would expect from a Swedish movie. But, on the other hand it deals with these themes in a way that possibly have not been done before in the land of normal, where even police thrillers are grey and washed out. Introducing the Mare, the female creature of the night that gives people bad dreams, Marianne offers a supernatural dimension and explanation for Krister’s poor mental health. As always with films like this, you never quite know if events take place inside or outside a character’s mind, but Marianne does not bring cheap solutions to the table, concerning the plagues we are presented with. The film is too well written and acted to be discarded as just another drama about mentally sick people, or a horror film about dreams becoming reality. This not only shows in the characters but also in the very smooth and transparent transition from personal drama to near tangible horror. The writing shows a steady hand and a firm vision, pacing the evolution of the story almost perfectly while always remaining grounded in the characters. So much grounded that we almost never get to see the Mare, and when we do feel her presence, it’s what we don’t see that is scary; the sounds, the sweat, the non-ability to move, the dreams…. or rather, the nightmares. You wonder where the word nightmare comes from? From the Mare of the night, of course!

A film like this totally depends on the actors, and they are led by Tomas Hedengran who is an inspired choice as Krister; a kind of weather-beaten military type who folds under the pressure of his daughter and his own concience, an interesting counterpoint to the trials put upon him. A tough guy who is not so tough anymore, a victim of himself. A mix of experienced professionals and skilled amateurs, the cast is well rounded and must be commended for making the film believable, as virtually everything in the film is character driven.

Not a traditional horror film, but still scary and what is perhaps the biggest point of the film is that everything in Marianne could actually happen to yourself, unlike 99% of other horror movies.

Rated 7 of 10.

Directed by Filip Tegstedt.

Sweden, 2011 (wide release 2012).

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