98 minutes| Sweden| 2008| Subtitled| Colour| D-Cinema

Interlinked micro-dramas in this super-smart new Swedish offering throw the spotlight on why we do the things we do: moral conviction, peer pressure, or plain stupidity? First-timer Ruben Östlund perceptively zeroes in on situations where the fault-lines of our behaviour are exposed, whether it’s a teacher responding to her colleague’s transgression, a bus passenger with a dark secret, teenage girls pushing drunken horseplay beyond the limits of good sense, or a middle-aged party host unwisely soldiering on after a fireworks incident. Observed in beady-eyed extended takes, all this is staged and performed with such skill it’s utterly believable, yet – unlike, say, Lars Von Trier or Ulrich Seidl’s approach to urgent ethical dilemmas – never resorts to strong-arm shock tactics to push the viewer’s buttons. This is reflective stuff, cumulatively engaging as the various stories gather chastening momentum, but never wishy-washy in its exposure of what Östlund obviously sees as Sweden’s tendency to smug consensus and self-interest. Well worth seeing. (Notes by Trevor Johnston).

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