On first impression the events in Rodrigo Sorogoyen's second-ever feature film, Stockholm, have nothing to do with its title referencing the Swedish capital. Upon a closer look, the Spanish picture's multiple layers prove otherwise.
Stockholm's beauty lies in its minimalist approach when it comes to characters, locations and events. It starts off with a conversation between two men as they discuss a common friend who has moved to Stockholm as the opening credits are still rolling.
We find these two young men in a typical Madrid underground club as the male protagonist (Javier Pereia, who will be available for a Q&A session following the film's screenings in Cairo) lays eyes on a captivating red head (Spanish award-winning actress Aura Garrido), who he immediately declares his love for.
It may seem like the film is a typical love story as the young pair stroll the empty streets of Madrid in the late hours of the night playing games on one another and trying to uncover each others' secrets and lies. It even takes a similar approach to Richard Linklater's popular Before Sunrise (1995), starring Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke) of two young strangers strolling Vienna drenched in conversation. However, Stockholm's thematic depth goes into the darkest parts of the human psyche exploring power, love and captivation.
Through the young couple's conversation, the film explores power struggles between men and women of this generation. Who has the upper hand when it comes to approaching another in a club? Who decides if this encounter will turn into a one-night stand or a relationship? Not to mention the emotional repercussions these decisions and actions land on the other.
One can say this is a generation which is consistently confused about what to do with their lives. Each individual is exposed to so much information, art and mixed-media messages which both expands their horizons and ambitions and serves in further confusing young people about their goals. We find ourselves stuck between wanting to pay the bills and at the same time do something meaningful with our lives. Not to mention not even being sure of what this “meaningful something” is or can be.
It is a tricky time to be falling in love. When in love a person gives a part of themselves to the other, but it proves more difficult when each person his having their own internal crisis of identity and episodes of emotional instability.
In the 1950s, love at first sight was both acknowledged in films as well as in real life. However, in Stockholm, the act of Pereia's character going up to Garrido declaring his love is seen as a cheap ploy to get her into bed. Most young couples nowadays use the word love rarely and there is much more weight tied to the word than before.
With the absence of love and romance, dating almost becomes a game of power and control, like a game of chess or even gambling.
In Stockholm, the director gives us a window into one night these two characters spend together, as we watch the power shift between them. While the dialogue in the film is as frustrating – but in an appealing manner – as the situation between the characters, cinematographer Alex De Pablo's camera work conveys the story in a visually rich manner. De Pablo makes use of Madrid's street and plays with the lighting in the apartment between the deceiving romanticism of night-time and the harsh reality of the light of day which captures the characters' flaws and insecurities.
Stockholm will be screened Friday 28 November at 6.30pm at Zawya Cinema and Saturday 29 November at 6.30pm at Galaxy Cinema, with lead actor Javier Pereia present for a Q&A.
Check the Panorama of the European Film programme and our recommendations.