A coming of age frolic with lessons for all ages.
Take a wild ride to 1980’s Stockholm and join Klara, Bobo and Hedwig as they transform 13 year-old Swedish society and find themselves at the same time. It does not matter whether the artist is 13 or 113, the object is to make people laugh, cry and, most important of all, think. Even though they know little of the world, these three have spirit, and sometimes spirit is all that matters. Picking up musical instruments that are as foreign to them as Kalashnikovs, they wage war on the everyday. No institution is safe.
Lukas Moodysson’s movie, based on the graphic novel by his wife, Coco Moodysson, is at the same time a celebration of being young and therefore invincible and being irrational in a world that too full of rationality. The backdrop of the film is the cold war between the USA and Russia. The words are flying and it seems as if every day brings the possibility of the missiles flying, too. The three girls understand the helpless alienation of their generation, the feeling of being born into a deeply flawed world that they do not have the power to change. What is more important, they sense that those around them feel the same way. They first reach out to each other, throwing their anchorless pals a lifeline. Then they reach out to the rest of the world and challenge its so-called responsible adults to laugh at the things they cannot change and to cherish the closeness that is often just a word or a touch away.
Mira Barkhammar, Mira Grosin and Liv LeMoyne play Bobo, Klara and Hedwig, the perfect trifecta of the human condition. Bobo is crazy and does not care what anybody thinks. Klara is the decision maker. She is the type A personality that struggles to bring some sense of order into an order less world. She makes the decisions because nobody else will and then she suffers at the hands of Bobo who blames her for making the decisions. When the three come together to form the band Hedwig is the only one who can actually, well, play an instrument. But what the other two lack in musical skill, talent and intuition they make up for in spirit. And, yes, sometimes spirit is all it takes.
The three beg for coins to buy an electric guitar, spend the money on chocolate instead and write a hate song about sports. The lyrics are “Hate, hate, hate sports!” It gets right to the heart the matter. When you are young and have a message, there is no time to waste on flowery lyrics. The words are accompanied by banging on drums and vocals that form a melody at various times during the piece, or, sometimes, never at all. Never mind, it is the message that is important, not the rigid rules and logical thinking of a world that brought us daggling on the edge of nuclear holocaust.
Then there are the boys. Always a big stumbling block in the world of successful artisans, love rears its ugly head and threatens to destroy everything to which the girls have devoted their lives. OK, at least the last several weeks of their lives. Will they be ready to compete in the gymnasium for the Sound Santa trophy? Or will they be booed off the stage. Is punk really dead?
Lukas Moodysson’s direction of the three 13 year olds is amazing. He manages to bring out perfect performances from the three girls. Or, perhaps he convinced them that is was OK not to act, even in the glare of the lights in front of the looming cameras. The shots of the school cafeteria and the shopping malls will bring back mixed memories to many viewers, memories both good and bad. There are intensely meaningful scenes that bring tears to the eyes, interspersed with scenes of pure silliness. The film would have been better with more of the former and less of the latter, but that is what being a kid is all about. Two steps forward and one step back.
In the end it is the indomitable spirit of youth that wins out and we in the audience win when we remember that we used to be like that, too. In fact, we are still like that, a little, and maybe we should be more like that. After all, we are the best!