RELATIONSHIPS look simple. For instance: Boy meets girl. Boy wants girl. Girl doesn’t want boy. Boy gets girl. Boy doesn’t want girl. But ah, now girl wants boy.
“Stockholm” (2013), a drama film from Spain, portrays a momentary encounter between a young man (Javier Pereira) and a young woman (Aura Garrido). One evening, he sees her in a watering hole for young people and claims he has fallen in love with her. He persuades her to go to his apartment, handing her his keys. After rebuffing him, she ends up in his bed. The morning after, she refuses to leave his place, while he, in anger and frustration, tries to force her out.
The film, deemed a teen cult drama by critics, ponders on the question of truth in a game of love. The declaration—“I have fallen in love with you” —suggests a whiff of romance and a life of happily-ever-together.
With deliberate artistry, the film strives for a blatant disregard for complexities in a relationship, perhaps as a way to mock the characters’ effort to maintain their encounter on the simplest level. Their names are not disclosed, and if the young man utters some false name, the girl responds with a disbelieving giggle. The film is heavy with conversations, leaning toward the mundane-repetitive, vague and senseless, as if to thwart any progress of intimacy between the two characters.
This city of simple, short-lived relationships is Madrid, not Stockholm. Stockholm is mentioned at the opening sequence, where the young man is told by a friend that the latter’s girl Laura has gone to screw some guy.
This urban drift is where, to loosely quote Shakespeare, the love of young people lies not truly in the heart but in their eyes. It is a pursuit of ephemeral encounters and minimalist pleasures.
Why does a young woman make a 180-degree emotional turn the morning after—from reluctance to surrender to refusal to let go? Is this a case of fatal attraction? Lest any viewer reduces her to the stereotype of a maddening clingy female, the film gradually, albeit with great restraint, suggests the young woman’s psychological fragility: some illness which prevents her from going out for more than a year, the overprotective attitude of her mother (telephone-conversation scene), the concern of her girlfriends, the self-inflicted hurts (bathroom scenes) and her tragic end.
Hence, the title alludes to Stockholm Syndrome, a psychological condition in which captives develop an inexplicable feeling of sympathy, and even devotion, for their captors and abusers. This kind of phenomenon was identified in relation to the 1973 bank siege in Stockholm. Instead of experiencing repulsion or hatred, the hostages formed a positive emotional bonding with their robber-captors, to the point of defending and protecting them.
Thus, the young woman transforms in this game of power and intimidation. She taunts her captor, refusing to relinquish her control. “I’m sick of doing things I don’t want to do,” she speaks out. Regrettably, the film’s predilection for the minimalist effect does not elucidate the character’s motivation behind the absurd choice she makes in the finale. It leaves the viewers with an empty feeling, as if grasping for the wind.
“Stockholm,” which won several awards, including the audience’s choice at the Málaga Film Festival, was directed by Rodrigo Sorogoyen, with screenplay by Sorogoyen and Isabel Peña. Remarkable was the film’s production, for part of its funding was crowd-sourced online through Verkami. And the artistic team was composed of people under 35, each offering their labor of love to fashion an oddly captivating film.
“Stockholm” will be screened at Instituto Cervantes’ Pelicula-Pelikula Spanish Film Festival on Oct. 16, midnight, and Oct. 18, 4:30 p.m., at Greenbelt 3 cinemas.