The Reunion review: a film that realises the dream of every harassed schoolyard outsider
Director and star Anna Odell does a brilliant job of layering mysteries between enigmas and dosing them in concentrated uncertainties
Film Title: The Reunion
Director: Anna Odell
Starring: Anna Odell, Anders Berg, Robert Fransson, Sandra Andreis, Rikard Svensson, Niklas Engdahl, Sanna Krepper
Running Time: 88 min
Martin Amis once admitted that his father Kingsley, hitherto tolerant of the younger writer’s Money, sent the book “windmilling” over his shoulder when he encountered a character called “Martin Amis”. There it remained.
The troubling Swedish artist Anna Odell – who once staged a suicide attempt on film – has put two nested versions of herself in a film whose narcissism is compensated for by its invention and incisiveness. Kingsley wouldn’t have liked it, but he didn’t like much.
We begin at a school reunion that, with its savage outcomes and atmosphere of smug menace, reminds us of the gathering in Thomas Vinterberg’s Festen. This version of “Anna Odell”, initially civil, rises to her feet and delivers a speech that speaks to the humiliations she suffered at school. She is eventually ejected in uncomfortable fashion.
It is then revealed that we have been watching a film within a film. Another more balanced “Anna Odell”, an experimental film-maker, invites the characters on whom the sometime bullies were based – now mostly sleek and successful – to view the film and discuss her accusations. Not only was she not at the reunion, she was never invited. This becomes a subject of much discomfort. Was it a misunderstanding? Why would this matter so much?
This second section is closer to “real life”. But how genuine is it? More than a few critics have pointed to Abbas Kiarostami’s Close Up, in which Iranian citizens played themselves in the recreation of a puzzling con. The comparisons make sense.
The Reunion (which won best feature from the Dublin Film Critics Circle at the 2014 Jameson Dublin International Film Festival) has great value as a complex, conceptual joke. Odell does a brilliant job of layering mysteries between enigmas and dosing them in concentrated uncertainties. Vital points are also made about the way Swedish society – so often lauded as social-democratic utopia – remains intolerant of deviations from the polished norm.
What really gives the picture its punch, however, is the awareness that genuine personal grievances are being revenged in public fashion. Odell has a film that realised the dream of every harassed schoolyard outsider. Sadly, almost none get this sort of opportunity. A film that is best served cold.