The Here After
Directed by Magnus von Horn
When John returns home to his father after serving time in prison, he is looking forward to starting his life afresh. However, in the local community his crime is neither forgotten nor forgiven.
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★★★★ review by metalmeatwad on Letterboxd
The directorial debut from Magnus von Horn and the first performance from Swedish pop star Ulrik Munther, The Here After is an impressive psychological teen character study. Munther plays John, a teen who returns to the rural school he once attended after a two-year prison stint for the murder of his girlfriend.
The Here After could have followed the formula for similarly themed films such as Boy A, or it could have become an ordinary but ambitious high school drama. Instead, von Horn takes a fresh, surprising direction. He conceals that exact nature of John’s crime from the audience so viewers have an opportunity to experience John’s complex and paradoxical nature.
John appears to be a charming and innocent young teen, but he also may be a reclusive sociopath. von Horn allows the audience to glimpse both the light and dark sides of the character, naturally sympathizing with him as he bears the cross of the life he has taken. At the same time, the audience sees John’s emotional detachment and inability to grasp consequences illustrated by the way that he deals with the death of animals on his family’s farm. The film compels viewers to consider whether John is a misunderstood teen who made a horrific mistake in a bout of rage or a sociopath incapable of forging lasting attachments or feeling genuine emotions.
At first glance, this could seem like a coming-of-age version of a fellow Zentropa production, Thomas Vinterberg’s The Hunt. However, the films differ significantly as John, unlike the The Hunt’s Lucas, is guilty of a crime. He has taken a life and been punished for it but still lacks the maturity and mental equilibrium to understand that the world that he is trying to return to will be able to neither forget nor forgive what he has done.
We’re also introduced the counterpoint to the condemnation of the villagers in the form of a newly arrived teen girl named Malin. Played by Loa Elk, Malin senses that John is not the monster that the rest of the community believes him to be. She tries to understand him and empathizes with his struggle to retake a place in society that rejects him.
Malin stands by him when he learns that virtually the entire student body and faculty of his school wish he would go away. Bullied, harassed, and isolated, except for Malin, John reaches a breaking point in what could be the film’s moving finale. A lesser director would have made it so, however, von Horne creates an unforgettable conclusion that perfectly deepens his central character’s struggles.
Lukasz Zal’s cinematography makes astute use of many different hues of blue to suggest John’s childlike innocence, abiding guilt, deep regret, and cool detachment. By using long shots and natural obstacles, we’re reminded of all who stand ready to judge John that they do so with imperfect understanding of John’s motives, character, and inner life.
Although von Horn’s debut film begins slowly, it rewards audience members who stay with it by delivering a formally accomplished tale of a complex character who faces the judgement of a community unwilling (or unable) to consider the many light and dark parts of his nature. [B+]
★★★½ review by Viktor Prentovski on Letterboxd
Movie #6 of Giffoni Youth Film Festival
I didn't expect anything from this movie, as I thought I was going to sleep through it, because last night we drank and we didn't sleep much, and also because we were kinda late to the movie.
Fortunately, the movie started later, so we just barely caught it at the start, and I am glad. The Swedish cinematography is phenomenal, filmed in the bleakest way possible, a technique used to elevate the emotional aspects of this movie.
The acting is raw, the filming is raw and even the story is very raw and quite real. It is a slow burn, and maybe it lacks development in some areas or at some times, but it's a good base, a base on which it just fails to deliver an excellent movie.
Don't get me wrong, I liked it, especially the way it looks, but it's not for me. Yet.
★★★★ review by Sofia on Letterboxd
Very interesting. Loved the way they chose to tell the story with the long and well thought out shots, showing us that a film doesn't have to follow any rules. And Ulrik Munther is phenomenal!
★★★½ review by Niall Blackie on Letterboxd
A young boy called John is released from prison for an unknown crime and he proceeds to try and return to his family farm, his small town Swedish community and his school but his reappearance is not welcomed by all.
The film purposely does not reveal his crime instantly, instead it chooses to slowly hint at what he had done to be sent to prison and why he is given the frosty welcome. This device was a good idea for a way to keep the audience guessing however, while it was good on paper it did not really work on screen. There was just not enough emotional engagement from the characters to really make you believe this was a terrible crime, and by the time it is revealed it had become pretty obvious and so was almost brushed over. Thankfully the director's focus on the aftermath of the boy's return on his family, the community and his classmates kept the tale moving and kept me interested to see what would happen.
★★★★ review by TheMovieWaffler.com on Letterboxd
There's been much highlighting in the news in recent years of the rise of far-right groups in Scandinavia, largely considered the most socially tolerant part of our world. Ironically, the main reason for this re-emergence of fascism appears to be the large scale immigration of refugees and migrants from Middle Eastern countries, many of whom hold ultra-conservative views that couldn't be in further opposition from those of liberal Northern Europeans. It seems extreme liberalism may have come full circle and spawned its worst nightmare. With his stark and gripping debut, Swedish writer-director Magnus von Horn seems to be tackling the changing mood of his people through allegorical means. Read the rest...
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