When I watched this movie I realized that I was probably not the only one in the audience who thought back to the period in life that is depicted here. Those were summers when you had little else to do but go to the beach. But only on the surface was life that uncomplicated. Soon important decisions would be required; most of us would leave our small towns and go to places that offered a slew of opportunities.
The key rhetorical statement made in the beginning of Falkenberg Farewell is “it’ll never be like this again, will it?”. Life will indeed change forever, but the good news is that it doesn’t end just because you’re turning your back on that beach.
We spend a summer in Falkenberg, a Swedish town, with five young men. Holger and David have been best buds for many years and spend most of their waking hours together. Holger says he doesn’t ever want to leave Falkenberg. His brother John has no other ambitions besides sleeping as many hours of the day as possible. Jörgen, who’s had a few shady deals in the past, plans to start a catering business; he’s already got the logo attached to his mom’s car. As a kid, Jesper always wanted to leave the town… but now he keeps coming back and doesn’t seem to know what to make of his life. Nobody realizes though just how unhappy David is, not even Holger. For some people, taking that final step into adulthood is too big to make.
Reality – but also complete fiction
Director Jesper Ganslandt and his associates, several of them friends since childhood, all play themselves in the film and even their parents show up for a few scenes. Still, Ganslandt won’t agree to the term “faux documentary”. Much of the material is reality, but there’s also complete fiction; when a tragic event occurs in the film’s last half hour it is an attempt to reinforce the emotions and depth of the memories of the period to a degree that reality obviously never could offer. None of the young men are professionals, but the sense of amateurism is held at bay thanks to natural performances – which is impressive, since it must have been a challenge for them to behave normally with a camera staring at them.
As the movie progresses my mind wanders back to my own memories, because emotions is what matters the most here – there isn’t much of a story demanding your attention, at least not until tragedy finally strikes. The cinematography shows the idyllic Falkenberg summer in a dreamlike state (inserted are old Super 8 films from the leads’ childhood); the effect is one of nostalgia and sadness. You’re never allowed to doubt where this depressing story is going and that softens the impact of David’s fate.
Falkenberg Farewell was much appreciated by several Swedish critics, but didn’t do very well abroad. For much of its running time I was battling indifference, which lasted up until the tragedy. I find that alarming because the filmmakers’ target audience is me and everyone else who remembers that last summer at home.
Falkenberg Farewell 2006-Sweden. 91 min. Color. Widescreen. Directed by Jesper Ganslandt. Screenplay: Jesper Ganslandt, Fredrik Wenzel. Cast: Holger Eriksson, David Johnson, John Axel Eriksson, Jesper Ganslandt, Jörgen Svensson, Rolf Sundberg.
Trivia: Original title: Farväl Falkenberg.