The first film from the “recent” category—that is new movies— to screen was The Girl. The title character is a 10-year-old girl living in rural Sweden. Her idealistic parents and older brother leave for a summer of foreign aid work in Africa, she is left at home with her freewheeling and flaky aunt. (The girl, it turns out last minute, was too young to join.) The aunt soon abandons her to pursue a love affair. Thus, the girl is left to fend for herself, though, truth be told, she may be better at it than the aunt is.
The upshot is, that while the parents are saving starving children in Africa, their daughter is home alone, constipated and dirty, scrounging for stale cereal and rotting sandwich meat, playing the piano naked in black face.
There is an amazing attention to detail in the art direction. Everything from milk cartons, to atlases, to dish racks, are just right; perfectly evocative of Sweden at the juncture of the 1970s and 1980s. The yuppie era is pulling up in a snazzy sports car, the progressive do-gooder ethos of the 1970s still going strong. At the talk afterwards director Fredrik Edfelt called it, “A different time, when there was still more of the old Sweden, in ways that were both bad and good. Things were more naïve in a sense, people were still idealistic about changing the world. It was also a time when children were still allowed to roam free.”
The girl too is on the cusp of a new decade, the world of adult sexuality lurks just around the corner, in shapes she only dimly understands: The lovelorn woman next door trying to entice her husband, their precocious niece from the city, who talks of sex and boys and ruthlessly picks on those younger and weaker than her. The script, by Karin Arrhenius, is loosely autobiographical and will ring true to the pre-teen experience for most, not only those raised in that time and place.