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A terminally ill woman confronts an emotional history worth regretting in Henrik Hellstrom‘s The Quiet Roar, a Swedish character study whose magical-realist interplay between present and past comes courtesy of psilocybin. Drawing much of its appeal from an awe-inspiring mountain setting whose impassive grandeur all but ensures Bergmanesque introspection, the sensitively acted film will impress on the fest circuit but may not be quite meaty enough to attract stateside distributors.
Evabritt Strandberg plays Marianne, who learns of a science-fictiony nonprofit group established to help ease the anxiety of those near death. Their “Beyond the Thinking Mind” program offers her a chance to return to one episode in her life thanks to hallucinogens and an even-voiced guide. Though she left her husband long ago and has abandoned contact with her grown children, Marianne chooses to revisit a family vacation taken when the kids were very young in which they stayed alone in a mountainside cabin overlooking vast rocky cliffs.
Marianne’s hypnotic state allows her to observe this scene a la It’s a Wonderful Life, standing by as her younger self (Joni Franceen) interacts — if not exactly coldly, then with unmistakable reserve — with her family. “I’ve chosen to isolate myself from life,” she admits later, after the invisible observational wall has dissolved and she is conversing with the characters in her dream. Franceen is very good in the part, but Hellstrom and co-writer Fredrik Wenzel prefer not to explore possible reasons for Marianne’s retreat from those closest to her. Instead, we simply observe it. The sound of wind rushing against the mountain’s face and an unseen waterfall below fill the space of things unsaid, while hints of turmoil to come (smoke trailing from an oven or unattended lamp; emergency flares being used as playthings) go unseen by Marianne’s husband and perfectly blonde children.
As the elder woman interacts more with the past (whose inhabitants sometimes speak back, sometimes listen silently), Quiet Roar can feel like a set of actors’ exercises drawn from material we haven’t read. We circle something unspoken and approach closure of wounds we haven’t felt. A 78-minute running time is ultimately appropriate for the short story-like material, capturing not a scene from a marriage so much as from one woman’s withdrawal from it.
Production company: Idyll
Cast: Evabritt Strandberg, Hanna Schygulla, Joni Franceen, Jorgen Svensson, Denise Gough
Director: Henrik Hellstrom
Screenwriters: Henrik Hellstrom, Fredrik Wenzel
Producer: Erika Wasserman
Director of photography: Fredrik Wenzel
Production designer: Josefin Asberg
Costume designer: Sara Forsberg
Editors: Henrik Hellstrom, Janus Billeskov Jansen, Fredrik Wenzel
Music: Mikael Karlsson, Hans Richter
Casting director: Sara Tornkvist
No rating, 78 minutes
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