The Burden


Reviewed by: Andrew Robertson

The Burden
"Niki Lindroth von Bahr's film is once again a masterclass of model-making."

A musical of sorts, one made in stop-motion, and impeccably crafted. A particular landscape, late-night, just set-back (in more than one sense) from the road. This is a subset of suburbia, a hinterland of hotels and supermarkets, call-centres and fast-fooderies, one astonishingly executed with things other than an attention to detail that resemble the simultaneously mundane and fantastic landscapes of Proyas' Dark City. This is not Metropolis, instead the Scandinavian equivalent of strip-mall country. Commercial zoning as a stage for auto-tune - in either case a form of mechanical intervention.

There's the hotel long stay - its staff, guests, fish, the three-day-rule of hospitality not quite palpable. The hairless rats of the burger joint are tap-dancing, table-mats and -tops all part of a skilfully constructed sequence. Call centre monkeys (your reviewer spent far too long as one himself) extol the virtues of their product, aisle end bins, terms and conditions, a Zyxel router box a triumph of artistic miniaturisation. The supermarket might be haunted, but its dogged workers are still diligent - a challenge for anyone subtitling, but the mangled corporate argot of "fronting eatables" is clear enough even before the tiny reorganisations of barely larger knackebrod, shelves stretching over surprisingly wide shots to show section upon section of small goods.

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Niki Lindroth von Bahr's film is once again a masterclass of model-making. Some locations are themselves a burden - the detail in some settings will floor audiences as readily and skilfully as some of the settings have been floored. The smallest details, patina on office kitchens, sauce on place-mats, unused sockets on hotel walls - though this is not new from von Bahr, whose 2014 film Bath House showed similar quality, as did debut Tord & Tord. It's not an accident that there's about three years between each of those three films - this is painstaking work, beautifully done. When the chorus speaks of burdens being lifted it's hard not to consider the artistic endeavours, the sheer creative effort of summoning a world whole-cloth, of bearing, even as a foam-core Atlas, the weight of a shrunken world. The Burden will lift your spirits.

Reviewed on: 15 Mar 2018
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The Burden is an animated and animal musical, enacted in a modern marketplace next to a large freeway.

Director: Niki Lindroth von Bahr

Writer: Niki Lindroth von Bahr

Year: 2017

Runtime: 14 minutes

Country: Sweden

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