I hope this Swedish fantasy movie will conquer the world
When I grew up, it never occurred to me that Sweden could be the setting for stories of fantasy, magic or horror. Or rather: it could, but only in fairy tales and the children books by Astrid Lindgren and Tove Jansson.
Swedish fantasy movies aiming for an older audience were unthinkable, for various reasons. One was that special effects originating in Scandinavia usually looked awkward, probably because it’s a small market where movies are made with small budgets and there’s never enough money to make anything fancy. Another reason was that my homeland just didn’t feel like a believable setting for fantastic stories. It’s a country built by engineers rather than by storytellers and magicians. Stories about dysfunctional families and existential angst seemed to come more natural to us than expeditions into the realm of imagination.
However all of this changed when Let the Right One In came out. It made me realize that vampires can melt into a suburb of Stockholm perfectly well. Sweden is situated far up in the north, where few people live, sunlight is scarce and the forest is right next to us. We’re soaked in melancholy, an environment where creatures from the other side can thrive.
Based on a book series
The movie The Circle is based on a book with the same name, which is the first part of a hugely popular trilogy in the genre young adult fantasy. In the centre of the story is a group of teenage girls in a small town who discover that they are witches and that they need to save the world from Something Evil, The girls are all very different from each other, and when they find out that they need to cooperate, they do so reluctantly. Each one of them faces challenges in their ordinary life, such as abuse at home or bullying at school, problems that not necessarily can be solved by the means of magic.
Currently this movie is only available in Sweden, but it’s been screened at the Berlin film festival, so chances are that it will be sold to at least a few more countries. I hope it will, if nothing else because it will increase the chances that they’ll make a follow-up.
I liked the way the movie balanced between realism and fantasy. The actors are ok, or even fine, the visuals better than we’re used to in this part of the world, and the sound and score was brilliant. There is currently a huge international demand for Scandinavian crime, but why not extend it to Nordic Fantasy? We already have Let the Right One in and Troll Hunter, if you include The Circle, it looks like a trend.
The remake question
Succesful non-US franchises sometimes become remakes. Should Hollywood make one out of this?
Well, it depends. I don’t think they need to make a similar movie where everything is the same apart from that it takes place on a different continent and everybody speaks English (that’s what subtitles are for!)
Like many other fantasy novels, the source material is extensive . It contains no less than six main characters, and we get to see the events from the point of view of each one of them. Even after squeezing, leaving out two important and popular side characters, it’s a two and a half hour long movie, which is a tad long. And I can’t help thinking it would have been even better as a TV series. It certainly was written lke one.
At this point we don’t know if there will be any international launch or if part two and there in the series will be turned into movies. It’s all in the hand of the box office sales. So far, so good. The film went to second spot on the chart in the opening weekend, right after Fifty Shades of Grey. Let’s hope it will stay up there for a while.
The Circle (Cirkeln, Levan Akin, SWE 2015) My rating: 4/5
Some other Swedish movie bloggers also wrote about The Circle: