Dir: Simon Staho. Denmark. 2011. 84mins
Simon Staho, the Danish director who has made a name for himself with intense, brooding dramas, takes a turn in a startling new direction with Love Is In The Air (Magi i luften), a pop musical about horny teens that is brash, abrasive and raunchy. Set over the course of one night, this fast cut, uber-stylised affair requires viewer patience to engage with its irritating young protagonists, but the film eventually finds a rhythm of sorts and the characters some tender moments.
The plot here is merely the candyfloss skeleton on which the style and music is constructed.
The film will find favour with younger, hipper buyers who might identify a cult youth value for the film in their territory. Older arthouse buyers who might have relished Staho’s elegant former work will find it a cacophonous assault on the senses.
The fact that all the songs are in Danish won’t enhance its international chances, although any teen in any country would warm to its brazen sexuality and on-your-sleeve romanticism.
Staho has made some very clear choices here, going for a visual style as vulgarly lit and dressed as Starlight Express or The Wiz and a cutting technique that is the editing equivalent of ADHD, with short scenes and snatches of singing rather than full numbers. Combine that with central characters who are pretty obnoxious for most of the film, the effect is in-your-face to say the least.
But Staho, an expert in probing portraits of human behavior, can’t keep the shallowness going for the whole film and somewhere in the second half, the photogenic kids start to shed their attitude and reveal the vulnerabilities beneath. It ends in a welcome warm glow.
A singer with ambitions for a successful career, the pushy Lina (Emma Sehsted Hoeg) is determined to bed rock star Niklas Ravn so that he can help her into the business. Her three friends Daniel, Therese and Stefan dance around her, as she pursues Ravn and his entourage through a night tableau of streets, bars, clubs and hotels.
Daniel (Gustav Hintze) is a sensitive boy in a toreador outfit hopelessly in love with Lina, Therese (Victoria Carmen Sonne) – who is celebrating her 16th birthday on this particular night - wants to lose her virginity to Stefan (Anton Honik) and Stefan, for all his cocky machismo, is dying to come out to all, and especially to Daniel.
As in many musicals, the plot here is merely the candyfloss skeleton on which the style and music is constructed, and the characters more cyphers than flesh and blood humans, but if the film has no soul to speak of, there is visual and aural pleasure to be had along the way.
Production company: Zentropa Entertainments
International sales: TrustNordisk, www.trustnordisk.com
Producers: Jonas Frederiksen, Martin Persson
Screenplay: Simon Staho, Peter Birro
Cinematography: Sebastian Wintero
Editor: Anders Villadsen
Music: Rune Palving
Main cast: Emma Sehsted Hoeg, Gustav Hintze, Victoria Carmen Sonne, Anton Honik