Rona reported on this film from the 2008 Edinburgh Film Festival. Now it’s out on release in the UK, it deserves a second look.
Watching Just Another Love Story is similar to being bound in front of the screen, having your eyes forced open and then being slapped across the face with a wet fish. It’s unsettling but riveting. I’m glad that with Nick I watched it on the big screen at the National Media Museum. This digital print looked stunning and the sound design was to die for.
I’ve seen several posts that suggest that the film is a remake or very similar to a Sandra Bullock film (While You Were Sleeping) that I haven’t seen and also Julio Medem’s Red Squirrel, which I have, but can’t remember very well. There is no doubt that in plot terms the film borrows from many other familiar narratives, but that’s inevitable since as one character actually remarks, that’s what films noirs are like. The important issue is that these are all familiar conventions, but they are presented with originality and skill.
It opens with a Sunset Boulevard reference and later I was reminded of three very different films, none of which are referenced directly, but it’s the kind of film that makes you search for memories – moments when you might have felt this before. I thought of Powell & Pressburger’s A Matter of Life and Death (and possibly Denis Potter’s Singing Detective) with a character in hospital in a coma whilst the narrative goes on around them or where we see events and wonder whether they are really happening or if they are part of the delirium of one of the characters. Later, the plot begins to unfold with some similar ingredients to the Claire Denis film L’intrus and overall I also got the mystery and foreboding of a film like Mike Figgis’ Liebestraum.
The widescreen cinematography is terrific with great use of different textures for the Vietnam and Denmark scenes. The locations are carefully chosen with unsettling compositions in a morgue (the director’s speciality it would seem), on the shoreline and in the family home and its terrace. The sound design offers us overlaps between a past in Vietnam and a present in Copenhagen and in the thriller moments I had to close my eyes because the brutality on screen was so great – but this was pointless since it was the sickening sound of rock on flesh that was so terrible. The film is written and directed by Ole Bornedal and photographed by Dan Laustsen. There is no sound designer listed, but the sound crew certainly did a great job.
I have to endorse Rona’s praise for both Anders W. Berthelsen and Charlotte Fich and for the devastating way in which ‘ordinariness’ and domestic life are thrown into such confusion and terror. This is one of those films that some will find overblown and ridiculous (it’s a melodrama!) and others will love as being what cinema is all about. Which are you?