In Stockholm My Love, Mark Cousins, cinematographer Christopher Doyle and Neneh Cherry have given us something of substance with arthouse trappings minus the self-importance. Martin Carr takes a closer look…
This is a film of stark beauty, peppered with striking imagery and grounded by the captivating performance of an Eighties pop star. Focusing on a fictionalised figure embodied by Neneh Cherry we follow in close up, long shot, first person and third person her journey around Stockholm. Languid, emotive and intimate, Cherry presents a riveting on screen presence which elicits a deceptively effective silent movie performance.
Photographed in pin sharp proximity by Christopher Doyle so that her iridescent irises refract lens light, Stockholm My Love is reflected through this mirror to striking effect. Director Mark Cousins unfolds an abstract family history using the city as a back drop to past memories, personal tragedy and questions of philosophy. Submerging his audience into the history of this vibrant capital whilst filtering it through Cherry’s internal monologue, Stockholm My Love boasts a disembodied sense of self. As a viewing experience you are seduced by architecture, lulled into the narrative by its relaxed yet precise approach and simply left to enjoy without pressure.
Stretched over two days this European travel log watches like a love letter to an earlier time when things were simpler. Black and white stock footage is cross cut with present day while visual tricks are used to expand on ideas not showcase skillsets. By taking a pivotal moment in Stockholm history and drawing comparisons with our fictionalised guide, Cousins suggests an overarching interrelationship between cause and effect, those in power and those with momentary influence. That he takes that premise further by linking events and tracing them back into another family history is bold and effective.
Stylistically Cousins is not above using dual subtitles on screen, mixing voice over with live action dialogue or drawing us in or out of frames on a whim. Whether in close up, long shot, inches from his subject or letting the lens dwell on architectural elements it never feels like showboating. Every frame holds importance, every gesture or nuance is there for a reason and ultimately this turns Stockholm My Love into a sensual experience. He manages to instil a depth and sense of history without being pretentious or indulgent on any level. For a thinly veiled documentary film it is lifted by the approach of a fictionalised narrative which gives it a reason for being.
Mark Cousins, cinematographer Christopher Doyle and Neneh Cherry have given us something of substance with arthouse trappings minus the self-importance. Bold, beautiful, vividly realised and surprisingly watchable, it reminds us what we miss in the rush to achieve. Stockholm like every other place in this world holds secrets, hides personal histories and invites innovation if only people stop to notice.
Written by Martin Carr
Directed by: Mark Cousins
Written by: Mark Cousins, Anita Oxburgh
Starring: Neneh Cherry
Released: 2016 / Genre: Documentary
Country: Sweden/UK / IMDB
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Top 10 Films reviewed Stockholm My Love on Blu-ray. The BFI released the film on DVD/Blu-ray Dual Format edition on June 26, 2017.