Five interlaced stories run throughout the film, structured in clearly delineated cinematic tableaux, like paintings with moving figures: long takes with the camera left to roll in fixed positions, the actors moving in and our –sometimes just out as we only hear their voices, or moving towards the lens until becoming blurred. It is almost as if Involuntary were an exercise in mass observation, although the development of the stories in the timeline of the tableaux have been carefully constructed and orchestrated.
The link between these stories can be defined with just two words: peer pressure. How spontaneous and individual are our decisions? How much are they influenced by our desire, our need, conscious or not, to fit into a social group, into patterns of established and accepted behaviours within that group, or to fit into a intellectual or ideological construct? Key is the tale of the little girl who finally gives the response that was expected from her in the classroom, although she knew it was the wrong answer.
Involuntary, with is dry, hilarious and, sometimes, dark humour, does not produce a immediate reward: the secret is in the details of each tableau, we miss them, and the film becomes meaningless and, even, tedious. We, the audience, have to work to reap the rewards.Yet, the prize for your efforts is a cinematic gem: this is a tender film that will haunt you for days to come.
Some films are like good wines: they get better and better as they mature. Involuntary is one of those, several days after having seen it, the smile is still on my face.
Do I need to say any more?
Director: Ruben Östlund | Sweden | 98 mins
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UK DISTRIBUTION: TRINITY
Stills and trailer © Trinity