Immersive story of a Swedish summer wins the top prize at CPH:DOX
Dir. John Skoog. Sweden. 2018. 71 mins.
Ridge (Säsong) captures the dreamy haze of a Swedish summer in images of light and landscape and little fragments of random lives. Director John Skoog’s feature debut is an ambitious, immersive documentary/drama hybrid. Ridge is largely set around the small village of Kvidinge in northern Scania where Skoog was born. His brother Aron is a central figure in a cast of characters that include local residents and some actors. Many members of the crew have previously collaborated on shorts made in Kvidinge and add to the sense of something deeply rooted in a specific place.
This is a film to witness and experience rather than try to comprehend
Described as a film “told in ellipses”, Ridge’s CPH:Dox: Award should help commend it to festival programmers and committed arthouse distributors although it may be too abstract and enigmatic to suggest wider appeal.
Ridge begins with the telling of a tiny anecdote concerning stray cows who have been growing “wilder and wilder”. The first images we see are of churning seas in the blue glint of night. A ferry is conveying seasonal workers to Sweden. The camera gently gazes upon them as they slumber.
Over the course of the film we witness farm workers and holidaymakers, aimless youngsters treating the countryside as their playground, the importance of animals and the relationship between humans and machines. Cows are milked by robots, threshing machines gobble up the harvest, another machine strips bare fallen trees.
Further anecdotes seem to reveal an out-of-kilter world in which a skinned rabbit is said not to have been dead but to have woken up screaming. We are told that it is possible for anyone intent on killing snails to gather as many as a thousand in one night.
Ridge is offering us little pieces of time and it is often hard to build any connections. It is a film to witness and experience rather than try to comprehend. The floral pattern of a wallpaper has a lingering attraction, the sounds of the countryside are inviting. It is a film that almost wants you to step inside and become a part of it.
Skoog has a fondness for tracking shots and twilight hour light. The star of Ridge is Ita Zbroniec-Zajt’s evocative cinematography which won the Sven Nykvist Cinematography Award at this year’s Göteborg Film Festival. Zbroniec-Zajt does a terrific job of capturing the blush of red in a fading night sky, the shaft of bright light illuminating a green field or the flicker of flames from a blazing car.
There is always something of visual appeal even if the film by its very nature is frustrating for anyone trying to discern a conventional narrative or grasp any bigger picture. In his slippery first feature, John Skoog suggests affinities with the work of Carlos Reygadas and there is also a vague sense of some impending apocalypse to lend an underlying menace to these scenes from a sunlit summer world.
Production company: Plattform Produktion
International sales: Swedish Film Institute firstname.lastname@example.org
Producer: Erik Hemmendorff
Screenplay: John Skoog, Anna Karasinska
Cinematography: Ita Zbroniec-Zajt
Production Design: Benedikte Bjerre
Editor: Agnieszka Glinska
Featuring: Aron Skoog, Agnieszka Podsiadik, Billie Astrand