In my country, it is traditional at the beginning of the year to make a promise which is binding for the next 365 days, only to renege on said vow 6 to 8 weeks later. Such ‘New Year’s resolutions’ typically include gym membership and avoiding confectionery. Sadly, your average pleb tends to run out of enthusiasm by February. I understand: it’s hard to settle in to a more healthy lifestyle if you’re accustomed to living your life as a self-loathing, weak-willed, cake-munching gastropod. Making an effort to better oneself is a decidedly alien concept to many. I would be delighted if millions of Britons resolved to vote in the General Election this year. It’s shaping up to be the most important election in decades, so it is extremely important that we all take it seriously.
But I digress. My resolution for 2015 is to watch fewer of those ‘action blockbuster’ movies whose box office takings are usually well out of proportion to their quality. After so many years of coming out of my local cinema disappointed while those around me glow with nerdgasm-induced satisfaction, I feel it is time I turned my back on all of that nonsense. They’re all pretty much the same: mumbling hero with five o’clock shadow teams up with sneering, leather-clad virago and wise-cracking pretty-boy, walks away from explosions, shrugs off fatal injuries but winces when a woman dresses his wounds, buildings collapse, explosive timer stops at 00:03 and arch-villain takes far too long to die. The end. Perhaps I’m getting cynical in my old age, but I no longer have the patience for three hours of CGI-soaked gun porn. I’ll make an exception for this year’s Star Wars film, however. I’ve always had a soft spot for the franchise (let us not speak of episodes 1-3) and the trailer for The Force Awakens looks intriguing. My Jedi sense tells me that this one could be a departure from the vacuous action flicks of the 21st century and a return to its heart-and-soul space opera roots. A new hope, indeed.
In the meantime, what, apart from my regular diet of horror movies, am I to watch? Recently, I decided to try out an indie film for size and settled upon Antonio Tublén’s 2013 offering, LFO. Essentially a kitchen-sink sci-fi, it could also be described as a modern fable, a cautionary tale of power’s corruptive influence. Made on a shoestring budget and not widely known in the English-speaking world, it was through word of mouth, not advertising, that I heard of it. The plot is centred on lonely, middle-aged acoustic engineer Robert (Patrik Karlson), whose only company is the ghost of his shrewish wife (Ahnna Rasch). One day, he discovers a sound frequency which induces trances in humans. Testing it upon himself, he implants a post-hypnotic suggestion to avoid sugary snacks (now that’s what I call a New Year’s resolution!), which works like a charm. Thrilled by his discovery, he decides to test it out further, like a good scientist. But who will serve as his guinea pig? His victims come in the form of an attractive young couple who have just moved in next door: Linn (Izabella Jo Tschig) and Simon (Per Löfberg). Inviting them round for coffee, he switches on his gadget and awaits the results. Eureka! His victims sit motionless, deeply hypnotised and with a glazed look in their eyes. Robert commands them to adore him and carry out his household chores. In addition, he causes Linn to find him very attractive. Sure enough, she visits him later, without her husband’s knowledge, and becomes her neighbour’s mindless sex puppet.
Making frequent use of his mind-control device and rarely venturing outside, Robert finds his past catching up with him and his machinations beginning to unravel. He is visited by a suspicious insurance broker, the police, a fellow engineer determined to learn of – and cash in on – his secret, and the spectre of his late wife. She, the voice of his conscience, materialises often, reprimanding him and asking the sorts of questions we, the viewer, may well ask. He pays her no heed, however, continuing on his destructive path and drunk on his new-found power. His hypnotic abilities get him out of a lot of difficult situations, only to land him in new ones, often with bizarre and amusing results. In a story such as this, one normally expects some sort of comeuppance for the wayward protagonist so that we, the morally-impeccable viewers, can feel satisfied knowing that the world has been set to right and that the naughty boy has been taught his lesson. However, this film’s ending was a rather different affair and left me rather surprised, albeit thoroughly entertained.
LFO is a cautionary tale in one respect, but one that is delivered with an air of emotional detachment. It tells us that power is only as effective as the one who wields it, but does not do so by wagging its finger and bludgeoning us with the kind of holier-than-thou fiction tropes that crop up so often in mainstream cinema. Tublén’s film is refreshingly intelligent, understated and darkly humorous (one of many things I admire about Swedes is their sense of humour). It’s a refreshing antidote to the loud intrusiveness of regular multiplex fare and works well within its limitations. Special mention must go to Patrik Karlson for his memorable turn as the eccentric, severely flawed anti-hero attempting to play God. My only complaint about LFO, perhaps, is that the sex scenes were played for laughs a little too much; it would have been nice to see some foreplay before cutting to the fornication. To make such little use of Izabella Jo Tschig’s feminine charms seems an awful waste, to my mind. Nevertheless, LFO: The Movie is well worth watching and a welcome departure from the expensive cinematic set-pieces which dominate popular culture these days.