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Hell on Wheels

The Ape (2009)

The Times BFI 53rd London Film Festival

"The Ape" is an unsettling and uncomfortable picture; it's raw, emotive, unforgiving and brutal. It's a trying and difficult piece of work that makes no concessions to its audience and proffers no apologies for neglecting to do so. Writer-director Jesper Ganslandt thrusts his audience into the rapidly unraveling world of Krister (an anxious Olle Sarri) who awakes on a bathroom floor covered in blood. What thus transpires is a visceral insight into Krister's fragmented psyche as he seemingly tries to recall — or indeed forget — what has gone before.

Mr. Ganslandt's direction is sparse; and by utilizing natural sounds, limited dialogue and washed-out, close-up photography, Krister's travails are all the more real and disconcerting. Leaving the bloodbath behind, Krister strives for structure and normality turning up for work as a driving instructor, visiting a hardware store and indulging in some angry tennis. However, Krister is a troubled soul, and understandably so. This is a man wrestling with significant inner demons, whose increasingly fragile state of mind is crumbling by the minute. In addition, the pictures uncertain chronology distorts the sense of time and place, lending Krister's wretched journey an edgy nervousness as his emotional state drives the narrative.

Mr. Ganslandt's refusal to signpost plot points forces the audience to take notice, urging them to discern for themselves Krister's actions and motives, while Mr. Sarri's tetchy performance alienates and distances, rather than encourages empathy and understanding for Krister‚ who comes across as distinctly cowardly and unlikeable.

Effectively, Krister is a contradiction. He implies remorse, yet his actions betray him for what he is — an abhorrent and weak individual who at one stage even retreats to the sanctuary of his mother’'s attic in a bid to escape from the consequences of his actions. All of which makes it increasingly difficult to relate to Krister and his plight, although effectively that's really the point: Mr. Ganslandt's Krister is a stark reminder of the fragility and vulnerability of humanity.

Essentially, "The Ape" is an effective study into the guilty conscious of an individual and the futility of maintaining a facade of normality in the face of adversity, while serving as a disturbing reminder of man's potential for primal brutality. It's a tough watch, but ultimately that's because it's supposed to be.


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