Fantastic Fest 2012: FLICKER Review

     September 23, 2012

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Patrik Eklund‘s Flicker may not add up to a rewarding conclusion, but it certainly adds up to a colorful, adorable movie where Eklund’s strong direction manages to keep a strong hold over five different storylines each with its own emotional vibe.  The film moves between guilt, absurdity, pity, back around to absurdity, fear, frustration, and then meets up with our old friend absurdity.  Flicker never comes off as a surreal experience, nor does it seem to have much of a point, but it shows off a delightfully off-kilter world held together by sweet characters and steady, confident direction.

Flicker has five interconnected stories all under the umbrella of Unicom (“Universal Communication Development”), a telecom company.  Kenneth (Jacob Nordenson) is a mid-level employee who can’t catch a break; Tord (Kjell Bergqvist) is the company’s discourteous boss who’s looking for a new marketing strategy after their previous one is a (painfully hilarious) debacle; Birgitta (Anki Larsson) is a janitor trying to overcome her fear of spiders; Roland (Jimmy Lindström) is an electric technician trying to conceive a child with his wife Karin (Saga Gärde); and his partner Jörgen (Olle Sarri) becomes physically ill after Roland is electrocuted and rendered sterile.

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Although there are five stories, the film is really divided into two overlapping sections.  There’s the stories involving Kenneth, Tord, and Birgitta (although she’s mostly isolated for the majority of the film), and the story involving Roland, Karin, and Jörgen.  The two sides rarely, if ever, interact, and we’re left waiting to see if there will be a moment where everything culminates with a climactic, interpersonal connection.  Flicker already has the benefit of not being based on contrived coincidence since we can believe that people who work at the same company could affect each other’s lives.

Even though Flicker never makes a case why it should have five different stories if all five stories don’t intersect and don’t share a thematic bond, Eklund makes us feel like these stories fit together perfectly.  The movie is slightly weird from the start by looking like it takes place in the 1970s due to the costumes, makeup, and the cinematography’s faded beige hue.  But then Kenneth goes down to the IT department to get his computer fixed, and there’s a big Call of Duty: Black Ops poster on the wall.  It’s a nice little touch to show Kenneth’s insignificance, and allows for other comic gags like handing him a Blackberry in place of a laptop.

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This kind of strange humor provides a nice connection throughout Flicker because everyone plays into this absurd world without ever commenting on the absurdity.  Without a hint of irony, Jörgen tells his wife that Roland is sterile by saying, “Roland’s balls went up in flames.”  The corporate environment condones putting a dunce cap on the beleaguered Kenneth.  Similarly, Eklund remains consistent by finding subtle ways to connect the storylines.  A bad date for Kenneth leads to the underlying tension in the serious relationship between Roland and Karin.  Flicker never culminates all of its storylines into a powerful conclusion, but it does manage to find the threads to make the transitions feel organic.

While Flicker doesn’t amount to a nice payoff, I applaud it for not forcing the story into lazy coincidences so we can come to some kind of weak Crash moment where everyone is connected by an unforeseen power (a.k.a. a screenwriter with a God complex).  Instead, Flicker is content to live in the little moments where we can get big laughs out of bizarre situations and a big smile out of strange kindnesses.

Rating: B

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