Reviewed by: Trinity

Henrik (Lindstrom) steps off a coach in the middle of nowhere to be joined in due course by a coffin delivered to the same spot, and eventually by his big brother Ronnie (Landstrom) who takes him back to the family farm. There he is welcomed warmly by his ailing mother and more cautiously by Liv, his mothers nurse and an old crush of Henrik's. Henrik and Ronnie need to bury their eccentric father, but it is their mothers plight which is the more likely to split the brotherly bond.

Elkland fits into the stereotype of modern Scandinavian filmmaking: the faded cinematography, the quiet, introspective characters, the focus on isolation. Where it succeeds is in its blend of dark humour with tragic circumstances. Where it fails is in its ability to draw out more than just the isolation during the relatively short running time. The music lends to the sense of a dance macabre played out in shades of brown, helped by the camera often using odd points of view - e.g. from the the point of a body incongruously stuffed in a broom closet - something more normally seen in horror movies.

With only four characters (excluding a corpse, a dog and an elk) this is an intimate piece, where the payoff is often better than expected. A scene showing the difficulties of fitting a large body into a standard-sized coffin has you fearing the worst after a setup earlier involving the use of an axe. In the end, crude comedy is turned into pathos with the coffin sealed by ingenious use of cargo straps and a power drill. Perhaps there is a way to find dignity and deliverance in death.

The chronic pain that their bed-ridden mother suffers from brings a different, considerably more serious aspect to the film. In her request to Henrik to assist in her death, she chooses between the brothers, according Henrik a privilege (or is it a burden) that Ronnie - despite his years of caring for her and the farm - is not deemed worthy of receiving. This sets up an emotional interplay between the brothers that reveals a complex web of tensions, jealousies and respect. When Ronnie shows Henrik the elk he has befriended in the woods, and his plans for a theme park based on it, it seems like a plea, a desire to be seen as a success in the family.

We never find out why Henrik left so many years ago, nor do we know whether he will get any closure in this valley of death. Like the cold ground around it, this film is bleak, dark and yet still witness to the light of dawn: Welcome to Elkland.

Reviewed on: 17 Jun 2009
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The prodigal son returns to bury his dead father in a black as night tragi-comedy featuring a friendly elk.
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Director: Per Hanefjord

Writer: Per Hanefjord

Starring: Sara Arnia, Anna Azcárate, Örjan Landström, Jimmy Lindström

Year: 2009

Runtime: 58 minutes

Country: Sweden

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