Lukas Moodysson's third feature LILJA 4 EVER is brutal. If you are expecting to see anything close to his feel good pictures from Sweden such as 'Show me Love' or 'Together' you are in for a shock, one that for some lasts for days. His film borders on documentary, based on the expansion of the sex slave trade. National legislation makes it illegal to buy, not sell,sex in Sweden so a secret market pushed even more underground than before has now reached unfathomable proportions. Young girls from the Soviet Union and the Baltic States enticed over to Sweden with promises of love, apartments and jobs find their worst nightmares.
The story that leaves many audiences in tears has no happy ending or quick fix out of misery, a deserving merit of the film. Seen through the eyes of young Lilja cinematographer Ulf Brantå uses close-ups for the faces of clients who care less that they are forcing themselves on a young girl who never fully experienced childhood. The emphasis put on the customer not the seller mirrors the way Sweden looks at prostitution today.
Oksana Akinsjina - a 13 year old discovery from St Petersburg with one film credit and a brief modeling career is exceptional as Lilja and works with a force that skillfully conveys insecurity, fear of abandonment, innocence, betrayal and rebellion. Alone Lilja and best friend Volodja (Artiom Bogucharskij) discuss their heroes such as Michael Jordan and Britney Spears and their dreams of a life away from the sordidness of a country in slow meltdown
Mein Herz Brennt (My Heart is Burning), a powerful text sung by Rammstein is heard at the beginning and ending of the film where dissonance rather than harmony is the predominant theme to a life where dolls, crayons and stuffed animals never happen to young girls. Music is used as an intensifier and marker throughout the film but stops abruptly to prevent us from getting comfortable. Equally disturbing are jerky camera movements and jump cuts where the spectator is seldom allowed to linger on imagery.
Director Moodysson claims that God whispered in his ear to make the film about the sex slave market in Sweden where in his hometown Malmö young girls are raped in the streets. He feels it is his responsibility to change the world on the subject and at the least the power of the film seems fully capable of destroying the myth of the happy prostitute forever. LILJA 4-EVER.
The Swedish director hopes that his dream audience will include 'a young girl in Moldavia who has been promised a job as a waitress in Italy and after having seen the film decides not to go'. Furthermore 'men who travel to Eastern Europe and Thailand to sleep with young girls will regret it and be ashamed'.
For Movie Magazine this is Moira Sullivan, Stockholm Sweden
© 2003 - Moira Sullivan - Air Date: 4/03