Movie Review: Lukas Moodysson’s MAMMOTH

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I can’t say I was looking forward to the press screening of Lukas Moodysson’s new movie Mammoth. On the contrary, I didn’t feel like going.

You see, I hate Moodysson.

I guess Fucking Åmål (1997, understandably retitled Show Me Love in the U.S.) was okay. Well, I didn’t understand why everybody was so delighted and claimed they could recognize themselves in it – I didn’t recognize myself at all. However, I found the dialogue just perfect, for once in a Swedish movie it sounded real. I like Tillsammans (Together) better, I actually thought it was really good. And this time I could relate to the story – I remember the 1970s and that I as a kid found those weird left wing activist a tad scary and disgusting.

Then Moodysson went off the track with Lilja 4-Ever, which is said to be an important picture, but in reality is a pure amateur production. My Russian speaking friends couldn’t finish watching it, since the Russian dialogue in it is horrible and apparently hurts the ears. Then followed stupidities like A Hole in my Heart and Container.

I’ve always disliked Lukas Moodysson. Not only because of scandalous acceptance speech at the Guldbaggen Awards where Fucking Åmål became Best Movie and the extremely rude Moodysson attacked the movie biz, the audience and everybody else. No, this man belongs to those who irritates me from the word Go. Things he says. Things he does.

…And then there’s the episode in Cannes when Moodysson, drunk as a skunk, tried to sell an empty plastic bag to a very annoyed movie journalist. In Cannes were also the two young girls from Fucking Åmål – they looked pissed and complained about Cannes being too glamorous. Oh, yeah? So, what the hell were they doing there to begin with, if they’d rather stay home boiling wooden sticks or something with Moodysson.

Oh, and I once tried to pick up Moodysson’s wife in a bar, before I realized who she is. She’s also a…special kind of person.

But in Sweden – as a Swedish movie journalist – you have to like Lukas Moodysson. You have to think Moodysson belongs to our finest filmmakers and authors. A movie by him just can’t be bad. You shouldn’t have any gods next to Moodysson. Before the press screening, I joked I was going to give Mammoth one star out of five as a protest, no matter what I think of it. I’d like to point out I was joking.

Loads of people attended the press screening of Mammoth in Malmö. 75% of them people I’ve never seen there before, people invited by the office in Stockholm. And some newspapers had three, four, five reporters attending. So, the interest was huge for this international, expensive movie in English. And what did we get to see?

Gael García Bernal and Michelle Williams are a New York couple with a little daughter, who’s most of the time taken care of by a nanny from the Philippines. Bernal and Williams are always working; she’s a surgeon and he’s running some kind of gaming site on the Internet. The nanny has left her sons in the Philippines.

Then Bernal is going to Thailand to sign a big contract. During the trip, his partner gives him a $3000 pen decorated with pieces of mammoth ivory. In Thailand, Bernal is travelling around and meets a young prostitute he starts hanging out with. And all the time, he keeps calling his family in New York, which he misses. Williams is working and working and feels bad when a young boy, stabbed with a knife, dies during surgery. And the nanny is thinking of her sons – while they’re sitting in the sand in the Philippines thinking of her.

…And nothing much happens.

Let me rephrase that: nothing at all happens.

Now, the other critics are going to talk lyrically about the poetry of the pictures, about the generous pacing, about the existential content and lots of other deep stuff. But here’s the deal:
At the screening I was sitting in the far end of the back row. I could see the whole audience from where I was sitting. In my row, several critics were sleeping or looked like they wanted to sleep. And among the ones in the rest of the theater, lots of people were dozing off. Every now and then, I found myself thinking of completely different things than what was going on on the screen. Mainly because not much was going on. The film lasts two very long hours and five minutes, and I guess it takes about two thirds before something remotely interesting happens, and that’s when Bernal meets the hooker. Absolutely nothing at all happens during the first half hour. And Michelle Williams is mainly walking around looking like she’s got a cold and kind of looks like Renée Zellweger, and that’s no compliment in my book.

Sure. This is competently made. Occasionally, the cinematography is great. But so was the cinematography in The Spirit, a movie I completely trashed. And why should I write that a movie is better than it is just for a thing like that?

To be honest, I find Mammoth boring like hell. I’ll never re-watch it. I can’t find any reason at all to watch this movie. Well, unless your a girl who’s a big fan of Gael García Bernal, and apparently he has lots of fans. But I don’t fancy looking at him for two damn hours. Boring, boring, boring! That’s what Mammoth is. That the movie totally lacks humor goes without saying.

I guess I’ll be pretty alone, being a critic in Sweden not liking this film. I’m should Mammoth will get rave reviews from most other critics. But seriously, folks, why should I rate it higher and pretend I like it, just to give a good impression in the eyes of my editors, colleagues and competitors?

I’m just honest. I hated Mammoth. I hated Mammoth. No, I didn’t – I guess I wrote that just to provoke you. Bride Wars, now there’s a movie I hated with a passion, and you can’t compare that film to Mammoth. But I almost hated Mammoth.

Mammoth opened in Sweden on January 23, and then it competed at the Berlin Film Festival in February. the reviews in Swedish media were pretty good, while the international press in Berlin booed after the press screening! To me, that felt like victory! Yes, I was RIGHT!


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