Thursday, April 29, 2010

"Later, when you become older and wiser."

Lust och Fägring Stor/All Things Fair (1995) - Widerberg
It's 1943 Malmö. A good looking fifteen year old Stig (Johan Widerberg) from Stockholm has a crush on his comely English teacher Viola (Marika Lagercrantz). Just like any boy in his class, sex is the only thing in his mind. In class, he does all the small silly things for Viola to notice him and surprisingly, she does. Their sexual encounters go unchecked for a while, until Viola's door-to-door salesman husband Frank (Tomas von Brömssen) finds out their secret. But Frank is too beaten-up-by-life and drunk to really care. They become good friends, listening to Mahler together and laughing at Frank's wacky inventions. Viola's constant sexual demands become too much (and tad bit close to Piano Teacher territory) for naive but good-hearted Stig. Their roles become reversed: the old becomes childish and the young becomes wiser.

What's different about All Things Fair is it's completely devoid of sensationalism associated with its taboo subject. Unlike real life TV tabloid stories about teacher sexing up students for everyone to see, the affair stubbornly stays private. Stig is a kid with a good head on his shoulders. Jealous Viola fails him in her class as he grows out of love and falls for a neighborhood girl his age who's willing to give up her virginity. But he's wise enough to handle the situation himself- his mom (who is kept in the dark about the affair) asks him if there was anything he wanted to tell her. He replies with wry smile, "Later, when you become older and wiser."

Beautifully written and richly rewarding with all the WWII details- schoolyard Jew hating for their hairy thick schlongs, Frank crying because he can't listen to Mahler anymore because now he hears Hitler's speech at the same time ("Can't believe it's the same language!" he wails in disbelief), All Things Fair is a great gentle last film by Bo Widerberg.