Magazine article Screen International

'A Serious Game': Berlin Review

Magazine article Screen International

'A Serious Game': Berlin Review

Article excerpt

Dir. Pernilla August. Sweden, Denmark, Norway. 2016. 115 mins

An illicit love affair between two young people in Stockholm at the beginning of the twentieth century threatens to destroy the lives of everyone it touches. This adaptation of Hjalmar Söderberg's 1912 novel The Serious Game is a visual delight, but it adheres a little too strictly to the rules of conventional melodrama.

Directed by Pernilla August from a deftscreenplay by Lone Scherfig, the film initially injects humour and energy into the sometimes stuffy confines of the costume drama. Both dissipate a little by the third act, in which tragedy smothers the spark of stolen passion, and slows the pace of the drama. The good looks of both the film and its central characters, plus the quality of the performances, should ensure festival attention. The picture's best chances of a life beyond the festival circuit will be in Scandinavian territories where Söderberg's writing is known and celebrated.

Arvid (Sverrir Gudnason) and Lydia (Karin Franz Körlof) first meet when he is a callow young proofreader at a newspaper, and she is the girl of his dreams. The attraction is instant. If it isn't quite love at first sight, it is a consuming fascination. Their hands brush together as they play a duet on the paint-splattered piano in Lydia's artist father's cabin. It's a moment that is referred back to rather too regularly with a mournful piano motif on the score.

Ambitious but penniless, Arvid declares his love but then tells Lydia that he is not in a position to marry her. …

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