Fantastic Fest 2012 Review: FLICKER Reinvigorates Swedish Ensemble Comedies

Peter Martin, Managing Editor

A delightfully droll ensemble comedy, Flicker (AKA Flimmer) comfortably mixes laugh-out-loud moments with empathetic observations about life in a moderately-sized Swedish town that is dominated by a telecommunications company.

Writer/director Patrick Eklund presents a cross-section of people whose lives are disrupted by a temporary power outage. The town of Backberga is home to Unicom, now run by Tord (Kjell Bergqvist), the founder's son. A poker-faced, ineffectual executive, Tord is feeling pressure from the board of directors, who are expecting big things from Unicom's implementation of 4G service. Unfortunately, Tord doesn't seem to have a strong instinctual feeling for business or for people; in the recent past, he approved a woefully misguided -- but very funny! -- advertising campaign, and in the present moment, casually ignores pleas for help from hapless finance/accounting chief Kenneth.

For his part, the bespectacled, beleagured Kenneth (Jacob Nordenson) gets the blame for much that goes wrong at the company, enduring indignities such as wearing a dunce cap in front of his co-workers. He can't get the computer assistance he needs from the company's tiny IT department -- two power-mad tech nerds working in the basement -- nor has he found success on the dating circuit, where he plays upon his very faint resemblance to Ted Danson (actually, his hair) as he fruitlessly searches for a soul mate.

Birgitta (Anki Larsson), a single lady who works at Unicom as a cleaning person, could also use some love, though she's preoccupied with a fear of spiders, a frightening occupational hazard. And Unicom workers Roland (Jimmy Lindstrom) and Jorgen (Olle Sarri) are dealing with the more serious consequences of the power outage: Jorgen feels guilty about a mix-up that resulted in Roland receiving a debilitating electrical shock to the genitals, rendering him unable to bear children. Of course, Roland is even more deeply affected, as he and his wife Karin (Saga Garde) had only recently made the decision to start a family.

Casual cruelties are visited upon nearly every character, not just once but multiple times, and, on paper, Flicker could easily sound quite nasty or mean-spirited. After all, there's a thin line between comedy and tragedy. Yet writer/director Eklund pumps up the proceedings with a buoyant, good-natured, 'can do' spirit. The residents of Backberga are not inclined to give up. They may not succeed at first, but everytime they get knocked down, they dust themselves off and get right back up.

In addition to establishing and maintaining a tone that encompasses verbal putdowns and painful-looking slapstick, Eklund keeps all the fizzy silliness grounded with social concerns about the intrusion of telecoms into daily life, especially their potentially deleterious side-effects. Eklund complements the dialogue-heavy script with well-framed visual distractions of winter in Sweden.

The town of Backberga may be cold on the outside, but its citizens are warm at heart, and the warmth, combined with the humor, wins out in Flicker.

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