Swedish artist and filmmaker Anna Odell devotes her time and effort to saying the unspoken and dramatising the earnestly avoided. In her student piece unknown, woman she staged her own psychological breakdown in an effort to expose the hierarchy of Sweden’s healthcare system and challenge society’s perception of psychological illness.
The Reunion achieves a similar result, turning social hierarchy on its head by confronting the perpetrators with the unfortunate lingering results of social domination. Odell is at the centre of the film, reconstructing aspects of her own childhood experiences and stepping out of the role of actor and into the role of artist. She uses a school reunion as the setting for her social drama, which unfolds as the perfect place to air a school year’s dirty laundry. After being ignored and abused as a schoolchild, Odell has some unfinished business to attend to, and will not rest until it is seen through.
The scenes are delicately crafted masterpieces of social awkwardness. Emotionally charged words and facial expressions form the basis of the film, exposing the intricacies of universally recognisable social situations for all their painful worth. The film’s structure progresses in stages, building her story layer after layer with painful moment after painful moment. It’s a struggle to watch at times, as Odell’s intrigue and determination break barriers of respect and cause more distress than it seems to be worth. But it’s due to this unswerving devotion that Odell ends up with something uncompromisingly honest that has the potential to change schoolyard social hierarchy for good.
In typical Swedish style the film plays out in a pared-down documentary fashion, amplifying background noise and basic human communication to tell a distinctively human story. Similar to Swedish filmmaker Lukas Moodysson, Odell examines the cracks in the surface of society to demonstrate how hegemony and discrimination have become too ingrained into our everyday lives. “It’s not the done thing,” says Odell, “but what happens when you do it?”
The Reunion is released nationwide on 10th July 2015.
Watch the trailer for The Reunion here: