Reviewed by: Mateusz Tarwacki

"The seemingly warm family idyll becomes a cage in the face of the communication deficiencies between the characters."

Most Scandinavian films have a recognisable style that cannot be confused with any other. This style harmonises with the stereotypical image of a man from the North – melancholic, silent, gloomy and austere, just like the Scandinavian landscape itself. While at first glance it might seem Frelle Petersen's Forever is just another typical Scandinavian solid drama, it is also a deconstruction of “Scandinavianness” as well as an image of contemporary civilization's communication deficiencies – tested by a family tragedy.

Line (Jette Søndergaard) and Henrik (Eskil Tonnesen) are trying to conceive a child following the doctor's instructions. Line’s parents, Maren (Mette Munk Plum) and Egon (Ole Sørensen), hope to become grandparents soon. In turn, Line’s brother, Andreas (Tue Frisk Petersen), experiments with new-wave craft varieties of coffee and plans an adrenaline-filled trip. Very slowly, almost sleepily, Petersen portrays the semblance of a family idyll. The sterility of these pretty pictures does not put the viewer to sleep, however, but builds the tension of waiting for the imminent tragedy. And although the tragedy is actually happening – in the background of the film, in the understatements, differences in repetitive family rituals – the bubble of apparent peace does not break so easily.

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In fact, the exposition of individual characters in Forever is not extensive, the characters function rather as a collective unit. Rare moments of loneliness, however, reveal the cruel detachment of experiencing difficult emotions, the inability to open up even to the closest person. The seemingly warm family idyll becomes a cage in the face of the communication deficiencies between the characters. This emotional impotence is perfectly reflected in Maren's conversation with the doctor: "Do you think about your son?", “No”, replies Maren as mechanically and quickly as if she were terrified by the very difficult, non-obvious thoughts.

Additionally, the tension reinforced by the tragedy, which does not disappear by the end of Petersen's film, is something much deeper than just an expression of anxiety resulting from the emotional incompetence of the characters. It is a glimpse into contemporary civilisation. A civilisation having trouble sweeping difficult emotions under the rug. A civilization which prefers the pretense of joy, tied by the social conventions and lack of time to experience feelings. Petersen thus creates a film able to surprise the viewer with its simple wisdom, closeness to people, but at the same time melancholic, gloomy and austere – just like the people of the North themselves.

Reviewed on: 23 Sep 2022
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Forever packshot
A family struggle to come to terms with the death of an adult son.

Director: Frelle Petersen

Writer: Frelle Petersen

Starring: Jette Søndergaard, Mette Munk Plum, Ole Sørensen, Eskil Tonnesen, Ole Caspersen, Benny Bøtchiær Thomsen, Lasse Lorenzen

Year: 2022

Runtime: 110 minutes

Country: Denmark


SSFF 2022

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