🇸🇪 THE UNTHINKABLE 🇸🇪
By Gina Meardon
The Unthinkable aka Den blomstertid nu kommer (2018) is a Swedish action, romance, sci-fi drama, thriller. 2 hrs 9 mins. Cert 15 UK. Subtitled. Netflix until 28 April 2021, free with Amazon Prime Video U.K., Netflix Can.
“Alex and Anna, 16 years old, meet and fall in love one summer, then circumstances force them apart. 12 years later Sweden is attacked by an unknown enemy and their paths cross once again. While the world around them falls apart, old feelings arise as Alex fights to regain the love of his life”.
Christopher Nordenrot as Alex
Lisa Henni as Anna
Jesper Barkselius as Björn
Pia Halvorsen as Eva (Anna’s mother)
Magnus Sundberg as Konny
Krister Kern as Kim
Ulrika Bäckström as Klara (Alex’s mother)
Alexej Manvelov as Tholén
Arvin Kananian as Sharokh
Karin Bertling as Farmor
Director: Victor Danell
Cinematographer: Hannes Krantz (as Crazy Pictures)
Writers: Victor Danell (as Crazy Pictures), Christopher Nordenrot
Producers: Crazy Pictures
Original Music: Gustaf Spetz
The Unthinkable is the first feature film made by the independent film “collective” Crazy Pictures, 5 childhood friends who went to school together and decided to make films. The film was made on a budget of $2million and with financial help from Crowdfunding, the goal was $35,000 and they reached that in less than 24 hours. Within a month they had reached $91,000. It is the biggest crowd-funded feature in Sweden.
Alexej Manvelov came to know the guys at Crazy Pictures as friends back in 2009 at the start of their careers. He has worked with them since on several projects, this one being the biggest.
Jesper Barkselius (Björn) did all his own stunts including the fire and flying the plane!
I have a confession to make. I first watched The Unthinkable early last year, and my only reason, shallow as it was, was because Alexej Manvelov was in it. He had filmed it after the first season of Before We Die so I was expecting him to have a big role, and I was disappointed. His screen time is short therefore I didn’t appreciate the film as much as I should have, nor did I understand back then that Alexej took the role because it was his friends at Crazy Pictures first feature film, and it was not about ‘him’.
So, this review is to right a wrong and to tell you, as with The Wave, the Nordics can do genres other than noir.
At 2 hours and 9 minutes, The Unthinkable is not a short film but I did not notice that. Look at it as a play in 3 acts, with the first a slow-burn to introduce the characters and set the background for what happens next. We are introduced to 16-year-olds Alex and Anna who meet and fall in love over a shared passion for music and an old church piano in the village where Alex lives with his unhappily married parents Björn and Klara. Alex is a skinny, introverted youth and Christopher Nordenrot lost 45lbs to play Alex as a 16-year-old, and then had just 3 months to pile it back on to play Alex 12 years older.
Alex’s father Björn is ex-military and works in an underground facility for Sweden’s National Power Grid. He has a violent temper and displays abusive behaviour which he appears unable to control, with constant mood swings which keep his wife and son continually on edge around him. There is clearly trauma in his personality (PTSD?) as he is unable to verbalise the love he has for his son and therefore Alex feels rejected.
However, it is Christmas and Björn has spent all his free time making music-mad Alex a guitar as a gift. Unfortunately, he did not tell his wife what he was doing and she has gone out and bought their son a guitar. What follows destroys the marriage and the family fractures causing deep rifts between father and son. Alex loses Anna to Stockholm and although he is not long behind in leaving, he does not take up the opportunity to make contact again.
Alex is the protagonist of the story in The Unthinkable. He goes on to forge a successful career as a musician but, despite public success, privately he is still that withdrawn, introverted, awkward and angry 16-year-old boy and, in truth, not that likeable. I thought it first time around and that feeling remains. He has to ‘find time’ in his schedule for his mother’s funeral, and although asked to inform his father she has died, he doesn’t, and in fact, lies as to why his father is not at the funeral. Actually, the only thing on his mind that Midsommar is the old piano in the church in his home village, because it has ‘more soul’ than his Bernstein, and he decides he wants to buy it.
It is that reason alone that brings him home and by chance reunites him with his lost love Anna just as an ‘unknown enemy’ launches military attacks in Stockholm.
And what of Björn, Alex’s father? He is an interesting character. In the intervening 12 years, he has remained in the family home, waiting for the family to be reunited. He is prone to painful flashbacks to when he lost both Klara and Alex and he has no real understanding of why they even left. He also suffers from paranoia (as it turns out, with reason) and his work colleagues mock him for his fears of military attack. However, his instinct proves right and it’s down to Björn that the underground facility proves a safe haven later in the film.
I don’t want to say too much about the plot but by the ‘second act’ you can really appreciate why the first act took time to build, with some really beautiful musical sequences. One scene was shot as a single take with no cuts or editing but took 20 takes which left Christopher with bloody hands – they used the 18th take!
The second act is visually dramatic! It has some remarkable out of control helicopter sequences (think the scene in The Wave with the cars fleeing the tsunami), and a truly spectacular bridge carnage scene as Stockholm disintegrates and burns. That extra Crowdfunding budget clearly got used to good effect here!
It is this mid-part of The Unthinkable where father and son are reunited and have to face the ghosts of the past as well as confronting the terror of the present. Alex finally has Anna by his side but not in the way or for the reasons he imagined. He learns some hard truths and reacts in much the same way as his father did all those years before. It is also in this part of the film that we meet Alexej Manvelov’s character Tholén.
What I really like about The Unthinkable is at no point do you actually see the enemy to know who they actually are. Yes, there are commandos on the ground, but they are not identified, and that adds to the confusion and the fear of not knowing what the hell is going on and who is trying to kill them. This is intensified by shooting these scenes at night. The action scenes in the film are actually worthy of any Hollywood film as are the stunt work and car sequences, especially on the bridge. Remember this was Crazy Pictures first feature film.
The third and final ‘act’, the conclusion, is truly gut-wrenching. We see Björn heroic and redeeming himself but also we learn who is behind the attacks and the deadly composition of the chemical weapons they have used against the Swedish population. This explains what has happened and what the consequences are for those who have survived.
The scene in the church when Alex, who has spent his whole life keeping his feelings firmly under lock and key, finally faces up to how he feels, is powerful and set to music with no dialogue. The first time I didn’t understand it, but then the final closing minutes make it crystal clear what is happening and you would have to be completely hard-hearted not to feel something for Alex at that point.
For me, Jesper Barkselius, who plays Björn, was outstanding. I had to remember he was the same character from 12 years before who had driven his wife and son away, both visually and as a person he had changed so much. Christopher Nordenrot, (who also co-wrote the screenplay) plays Alex as emotionally stilted and damaged. It is telling that when he informs his father his mother is dead, he calls her by her first name and not as “mum”.
Despite its length, The Unthinkable has all the elements of an exciting sci-fi thriller. However, it is very much about love, fractured families and missed opportunities, about what could have been and… regret. It is a lesson in why communication is so important and that moment when someone has gone and it is too late to tell them you love them.
Make sure you watch those closing credits as they reveal the aftermath of what I have to say, is an excellent first feature film by Crazy Pictures.
I am so pleased I gave this film another go.
Guldbagge Jury Special Bagge 2019 Newcomer of the Year
Gérardmer Film Festival 2019 Critics’ Prize
Gérardmer Film Festival 2019 Jury Prize
Gérardmer Film Festival 2019 Youth Jury Grand Prize
Screamfest Jury Prize Special Effects 2018
Guldbagge Best Film 2019
Guldbagge Audience Award 2019
Guldbagge Best Visuals Effects 2019
Guldbagge Best Sound 2019
Sitges – Catalonian International Film Festival 2018 Best Film
Västerås Film Festival 2018 Audience Award of the Year