Film Review - “It's So Charming”
(director - Svend Colding)
5.0 out of 5.0 stars
The history of cinema is full of films that introduce identical or similar stories. Filmmakers usually seek to find span-new stories and make films that draw attention through the originality of their topics. Many of them try to remake classics by using their creative vision, which is of course a great challenge by itself. It is a risky bet for all filmmakers who want to present a unique work in such a competitive field crowded with thousands of creators.
Danish director Svend Colding ventures to show a much talked-about story in his short film "It's So Charming" (2021, 27minutes). It is a story about a young energetic girl's (Silvia) first visit to her lover's (Christian) parents, to get to know them and inform them about her pregnancy, which she believes will bring joy and warmth in their hearts, making the meeting a comforting and blissful occasion and herself very excited but also a little nervous due to the sensitivity of the situation.
Silvia (Fanny Bernth) having tea with Christian’s (Niklas Herskind) family.
It is Christian’s parents' silver anniversary and the film begins with a refreshing vitality corresponding to the nature of the occasion and the surrounding festive atmosphere. Silvia is confident that the day will pass peacefully since carrying the family's grandchild constitutes a reason for them to embrace her without hesitation.
Throughout the film, Silivia’s character serves as a means to follow the family’s special day. Her spontaneity and benevolence make her believe that things will run smoothly and pleasant, but as she gradually discovers the underlying tension in the father-son relationship, along with the former’s boastful and cocky behavior towards both Christian and herself, she comes to realize that this would not be the case. What she gets in return, is disappointment, which leads to confusion and alienation towards them.
We witness the dramatic development as her psychological state changes due to the contradiction between her expectations and the shocking reality.
The family’s coldness and indifference to the news of her pregnancy puts her in great confusion, which grows to the point of causing her pain and heartbreak. She confronts the family’s fragility, social hypocrisy, and aggressiveness towards others, including of course herself. It is a patriarchal family living within a strict frame of stereotypes and norms, concerned with maintaining a decorous appearance by displaying control and power.
All these are portrayed masterfully through carefully designed scenes and expressive shots, cautiously selected with exceptional attention to sound design, lighting, set decoration and vivid cinematography that puts the viewer deep into the action.
One of the film’s highlights is the magnificent Fanny Bernth (Silvia). Being the main lever of the film's drama, the actress worked intensely on her expressive skills offering us an attentive to detail performance. At the beginning of the film, eyes sparkle with joy, the body moves spontaneously and freely, a warm voice, and a gentle tone all of which give their place, as the drama develops, to glaring and rigid eyes trying to hold back tears, a stiff body with a bend in the back, a few words in a trembling voice.
In the end, a mixture of sadness and anger explodes with pride..
Christian’s father, Thorsten (Henrik Birch), also offers an outstanding performance. Realistic, convincing and focussed reminding us the words of the great Michel Piccoli:
“The acting must be very precise; the focus is sharp; the sounds of the text are audible, as clear as they can be”.
Both Henric’s and Bernth’s performances are balanced and exquisitely controlled, fueling each other with dramatic tension, rising eventually to a tragic crescendo from which no “interested” party could escape.
Silvia (Fanny Bernth) and Thorsten (Henrik Birch) building together a memorable acting ensemble.
Editing is deservedly one of the film’s heroes, as the nature of the situation requires a solid link to the dramatic rhythm in order to maintain our attention and curiosity as we follow the main character. Thus the plot develops keeping to an ascending dramatic course which also sets the tone of the film. With an ideal selection of medium shots and closeups the director captures the story superbly by digging cautiously into the family drama offering us a well-structured plot, with great pacing, leading to an incomparable discharging catharsis.
“It’s So Charming” is a broadly-discussed story, seen in numerous films, nevertheless director Svend Colding unquestionably managed to deliver an interesting and refreshing version of the “myth”. We clearly see in his work the extent of his deep knowledge, insight, and sensitivity.
Svend Colding is a director who understands filmmaking’s strange magic; always renewed and never-ending.