The Ape

The Ape


Reviewed by: Anton Bitel

Something bad has happened.

We know this from the outset, because Krister (Olle Sarri) has just woken up on a bathroom floor, covered in blood – and it is clearly not his own. Fleeing the house, he calls in to postpone the first driving lesson he was scheduled to give that morning, picks up his car from the garage (despite warnings from the mechanic that the brake pads need to be fixed), arrives late to work, shouts furiously at a student for a minor error, walks off the job, makes some purchases at a hardware store, tries to blow off steam at the indoor tennis court, hassles a young man in the shower room, and then at last heads back home. Over the rest of the day and the following night, Krister will slowly, and with great reluctance, face up to the enormity of what has gone before, and will struggle desperately to pick up what pieces remain.

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Writer/director Jesper Ganslandt brings a rigorous aesthetic to Krister's long, dark journey of the soul, tracking his experiences with handheld profiles or over-the-shoulder shots, all in close-up. The effect corresponds to Krister's own guilt- and denial-ridden tunnel vision, shutting out much of the reality that he is so loath to look square in the eye, and restricting the viewer to even less than this one character's point of view. Apan, or The Ape as it is known in English-speaking countries (although just plain Ape would have been better) is a film where horror is evaded, elided or merely glimpsed sidelong – but is all the more horrific for that.

Indeed, most of the horror is inscribed in Sarri's performance – a masterclass in nervous glances, distraught breakdown and acute passive aggression – so that even without the bloody introduction, it is clear every second that something is oh-so-very wrong. An everyman whose workaday life and suburban domesticity barely conceal the torment, anxiety and rage within, Krister comes across as a cipher for alienated humanity in the modern age, so easily reverting to the infant or animal that resides atavistically in us all. This is what makes so confronting the gradually unfolding truth of what he has done, and how he tries to deal with his own nature once it has been unleashed.

Perfect in its duration, perfect in its ending, and chillingly perfect in its central performance, The Ape plays off the banalities of life against a constant, underlying sense of dread. The result is a film that is as immaculate and elevated in its realisation as its protagonist is flawed and fallen in his character. Not that he is so very unlike anyone else. After all, as the Bob Dylan lyric that plays over the closing credits has it: "Too much of nothing/can make a man feel ill at ease/one man's temper might rise/while another man's temper might freeze." So get those brakes fixed before you lose control – because every one of us, every once in a while, goes a little ape.

Reviewed on: 10 Oct 2009
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A disturbed man's descent into hell.
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Director: Jesper Ganslandt

Writer: Jesper Ganslandt

Starring: Olle Sarri, Françoise Joyce, Sean Pietrulewicz, Niclas Gillis

Year: 2009

Runtime: 81 minutes

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