Sticks and Stones (Brakland)
13th October 2018 8.45pm at Curzon Soho
14th October 2018 6.15pm at Vue West End
Sticks and Stones is a Danish drama that oozes style and menace, but unfortunately the title (at least in its English translation) hits on an apt idiom, as the film ultimately lacks substance, with only the bare bones of character and storyline to hang itself around.
That skeletal plot begins with Simon (Jonas Bjerril), who has swapped the bright lights of Copenhagen for small-town Vesterby. Once there, he falls in with fellow filmmaking student Bjarke (Vilmer Trier Brøgger), as the two set out to make “Planet of the Apes”, a documentary that looks at human beings – their relationships, their work and their basest desires and acts – as if watching monkeys in a zoo. Bjarke’s father, Kasper (Peder Thomas Pedersen), is the town’s largest employer, and his son is above the rules, but as his father falls from grace and the teenager spirals increasingly out of control, that dynamic begins to change. Bjarke falls into violence, drink and drugs.
Brøgger’s stillness, the questioning and invasive insistence conveyed by his mere presence, his blank eyes that look deep into everything, make his central turn as Bjarke the standout feature of the film. It’s an incredibly mature performance that still feels absolutely rooted in the worldview of a teenager.
At times, Sticks and Stones feels as much like a meditation on filmmaking as on adolescent rebellion or the general depravity of people. Much of the picture focuses on the boys’ movie and many of its events are seen twice, once through their eyes and once through the lens of director Martin Skovbjerg.
The extensive use of shaky-cam can often feel gratuitous but here it’s expertly done, with the rough edges and wasted moments that make the footage feel properly lived-in. You can sense the adolescent filmmaker behind the camera, rather than an accomplished director. That said, the teenagers’ film (as far as we see it) has similar problems to the overall feature. Its events are unlikely, its characters underdeveloped and its themes ambiguous to the point of disappearing.
An intriguing but overly invasive electronic score is symptomatic of a picture that constantly feels more suited to a shorter format – its feature length is achieved through experiment and art rather than narrative.
Sticks and Stones is frustrating. It is undeniably beautiful and occasionally unsettling, but it tells a story we’ve seen before, and fails to bring much new to the tale itself, even if its telling is artful.
Sticks and Stones (Brakland) does not have a UK release date yet.
Read more reviews and interviews from our London Film Festival 2018 coverage here.
For further information about the festival visit the official BFI website here.
Watch the trailer for Sticks and Stones (Brakland) here: