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She Monkeys

She Monkeys

Released 25 May 2012
Director Lisa Aschan

Mathilda Paradeiser, Isabella Lindquist, Linda Molin, Sergej Merkusjev, Adam Lundgren, Sigmund Hovind
Writer(s) Josefine Adolfsson, Lisa Aschan
Producer(s) Helene Lindholm
Origin Sweden
Running Time 83 minutes
Genre Drama
Rating TBC

Growing pains.

Lisa Aschan’s first feature She Monkeys, is an impressively complex and atmospheric take on the coming of age drama. Set in modern day Sweden, the film revolves around three girls; teenagers Emma and Cassandra (Mathilda Paradeiser and Linda Molin respectively) and Sara (Isabella Lindquist), Emma’s seven year old sister.

Emma is a quiet, young woman, her girlish features and watchful nature making her appear shy and fragile. When she joins a local gymnastics team, she begins a strange and intense relationship with the beautiful, more grown up Cassandra. The power balance between the two girls is intriguing to watch. At first, Emma seems enthralled by the slightly older, more beautiful girl. She is keen to please her and forgives her occasionally cruel, offhand manner. As the film progresses however, we begin to see the hint of an iron core at Emma’s centre as she begins to challenge Cassandra for dominance on the vaulting team and shows herself to be more sexually precocious. Meanwhile, the young Sara also finds herself at a turning point, suddenly being made aware of her progress out of childhood and feeling shame at her own body.

All three young girls give startlingly mature and subtle performances for their ages. Paradeiser in particular is captivating. It is a testament to the strength of her performance that she can transform herself and our expectations of Emma without breaking her dreamlike, impassive exterior. This dreamlike mood becomes the hallmark of the entire piece. The film unwinds at an almost uncomfortably languid pace as Aschan and director of photography Linda Wassberg take advantage of the eerie permanent twilight of a Scandinavian summer to create an environment that feels unreal. Through prolonged periods of silence broken by a My Bloody Valentine-esque soundscape provided by Swedish band Fox Machine, a sense of dread slowly creeps in as scenes become more disjointed and the girls’ behaviour becomes more extreme.

This sinister atmosphere makes She Monkeys a uniquely disturbing but captivating experience. Though troubling at times in its examination of burgeoning sexuality, it is an extremely promising debut and certainly one that lingers in the memory.

- Linda O’Brien