The Gullspång Miracle


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

The Gullspang Miracle
"Although the structure is offbeat, and the muscular scoring from Jonas Colstrup (The Square) emphasises the emotional rollercoaster, Fredriksson’s film remains empathetic to all concerned." | Photo: Ballad Film

One of those stranger than fiction tales that becomes weirder as it rolls along, Maria Fredriksson takes a quirky approach to her increasingly off-beat material right from the start in The Gullspång Miracle. The documentarian goes so far as to show us the orchestration of an initial ‘scene’ in the film, in which sisters Kari and May describe how a picture led to the ‘miracle’ of the film’s title. They are filmed repeatedly re-enacting the moment they saw the still life tapestry hanging in an apartment, a subtle nudge from Fredriksson to remember that not everything in the film may be spontaneous or entirely as true as it seems.

The pair contacted Fredriksson after a series of events - including a trip 1000 miles away from where they were born, that picture and a broken tailbone - led them to cross paths with Olaug. It is, as a shot of the amusement ride where that tailbone broken indicates, a whale of a tale. Although Olaug was a total stranger to them, they were immediately struck by her similar appearance to the sister, Lita, they had lost to suicide three decades earlier. Those familiar with Tim Wardle’s Three Identical Strangers, may think they know where this is going but while initially seeming to share the same DNA, this becomes an even more tricksy tale that is as much about psychology and social coding as it is about cell structure.

Copy picture

The fact that Olaug was, for years, nicknamed Lita, and a DNA test that shows she is Kari and May’s half-sister is merely the anteroom of what will become an increasingly labyrinthine rabbit hole as the film progresses. That Olaug was Lita’s twin, it turns out, is the likely reason that the pair were split up. Nazi occupation of the country at the time, meant twins were ripe for eugenics experiments, resulting in many such births being hidden. Melancholy questions of how you might choose which sibling to send away hang over the film, as Olaug tries to reconcile her wealthy and non-religious upbringing with the religious attitude of her birth family and what she also views as their “impoverished” childhood.

Further cracks begin to show as Olaug also questions the manner of Lita’s death which cracks open a whole curate’s egg of other questions, not all of which will find answers. Although avenues open up left and right Fredriksson keeps her eye on the ball of the central emotional interpaly between Olaug, Kari and May as circumstances and attitudes pull them this way and that. Although the structure is offbeat, and the muscular scoring from Jonas Colstrup (The Square) emphasises the emotional rollercoaster, Fredriksson’s film remains empathetic to all concerned. Perhaps that’s because the filmmaker allows herself to become so personally embroiled - a brave approach but one that pays off, as when she declares, “I’m really upset”, we feel it too.

Whatever the ins and outs of religion and science are - and this review has only scratched the surface of the wounds and scars that emerge - Fredriksson’s clever and slippery film suggests that, in the end, much of the way we view the world rests on not on quantifiable facts or fictions but on choice and personal belief.

Reviewed on: 13 Jun 2023
Share this with others on...
A pair of sisters' encounter with a woman who looks like their dead sibling proves to be just the start of a whale of a tale.

Director: Maria Fredriksson

Year: 2023

Runtime: 149 minutes

Country: Sweden, Norway, Denmark

Search database:

Related Articles:

Miracle and mystery