Lilya 4-ever

For the movie fan, these are the best of times and the worst of times. Hollywood, in thrall to a dissident segment of American culture at war with traditional values, and addicted to special effects, violence, sex, and adrenalin—producing clichés, only rarely deigns to produce and distribute fare which addresses our minds or souls instead of our nether regions. But in the world of DVDs, we have a bounty of artistic delight available any time we want, and we can pause, rewind, and savor on our own ryhthms.

Even as box office returns decline, only a brave few companies think outside the box and bring us meatier fare such as The Passion of the Christ or Sideways, two very different good movies. My own visits to local multiplexes become fewer with each year, special events rather than ordinary recreation. There are simply too many better alternatives available. As movie theatres offer less and less of interest, DVDs offer a burgeoning cornucopia of satisfying and thought—provoking visual entertainment.

The easy availability of a vast world of movies through mail—based DVD rental services like Netflix offers a near—paradise for buffs like me, who once haunted obscure repertory houses in big cities and college towns, in search of rarely—screened gems from the past or from overseas film makers and domestic indie producers.

At their best, movies can transport us to another realm, one outside our own experience, and teach us something about the human condition. The best of them stay with us for the rest of our lives, unforgettable little snippets of life that we incorporate into our own memories, as if we had encountered the characters and the places they inhabit ourselves

One such movie is the Swedish film Lilya 4—ever, directed by Lukas Moodysson, the Swede who notably was called the 'young master' by Ingmar Bergman. Lilya 4—ever is not for everyone. It contains scenes of brutality, raw and unappealing sex, and is horrendously depressing. But it was, for me, a valuable excursion into worlds I never knew, and never hope to know through direct experience. It is also unforgettable.

Told in an extended flashback, Lilya 4—ever is the story of a 16 year girl 'somewhere in the former Soviet Union' (it was filmed in Tallinn, Estonia and Moodyson's hometown, Malmo, Sweden) whose mother one day announces that she is going to the United States to marry an American man she met through a dating/introduction service. Then she breaks the news to her daughter Lilya that she will be left behind, to come later.

Lilya is initially thrilled with the prospect of leaving her terrible surroundings and going to the Promised Land. Her enthusiasm for America is a sight to behold, and tells us a great deal about what many people overseas actually think of our country, no matter what rhetoric they may utter for public consumption.

But the dream turns into a nightmare for Lilya. Her mother abandons her, and later mails the social services bureau that she renounces her responsibilities for Lilya, and entrusts her care to the state. Lilya will have nothing to do with it, of course.

The landscape of suburban housing developments in which Lilya lives is extraordinarily bleak — a wreck of a country and of a social system. It is like an American housing project, with less graffiti and violence, but worse construction. The entire country seems soulless,  selfish, and without direction.

A true innocent, Lilya falls prey to all kinds of trouble. Her only friend is a younger boy named Volodya, a 'throwaway child' expelled by his father for some offense he doesn't understand. As the nightmare deepens, the worst possible outcomes ensue. I won't go into any details, so as to allow readers who see the film to experience it for themselves without foreknowledge.
 
The acting of the two principal characters, Lilya and Volodya, is among the finest child acting I have ever witnessed. Oksana Akinshina, the beautiful Russian child—woman playing Lilya, is entirely believable through some of the worst horrors the mind can imagine. How Moodyson was able to evoke such a performance working through an interpreter is a mystery to me. Artyom Bogucharsky who plays Volodya has a less demanding role, but nevertheless shines through the screen as a soul you feel you have met.

Its merits a movie aside, Lilya 4—ever is quite intriguing in terms of its route to the American viewer's screen. No distributor picked—up the film for video release in the United States, despite the very formidable international box office performance and the critical praise it received in Europe. The video rental service Netflix took it upon itself to make it into a DVD, and offers it to subscribers as an exclusive release.* So, the only way you can see it is to subscribe to Netflix. If you don't currently do so, Netflix offers a two week free trial subscription, and if you are tempted, I would recommend experimenting with Lilya 4—ever on a cost—free basis. If you like movies as much as I do, and enjoy prowling lists of Polish, Korean, and old American movies, for example, you probably will get hooked the way I did, and forget how to drive to the multiplex.

Based on my reading about director Moodyson, I gather that he would easily be categorized as a leftist. Some of his other movies sound unappealing to me, though I will view them if I have the chance, based on his strong showing in Lilya. His politics don't matter. He may very well intend Lilya to be a commentary on the false promise of America, or on the baleful consequences of the fall of the USSR. It doesn't matter. He is telling a story that has the ring of truth, and you can read into it whatever you make of that truth. For me, it tells of the soul—destroying effects of communism, and the importance of parents.

That's the thing about the truth: we all must make of it what we can. Those who present us with it do us a service, whatever their intent.

*For unknown reasons, the Netflix search engine does not respond to the actual name of the film, so use the director's name to search for it on Netflix, should you be interested in renting it.

Thomas Lifson is the editor and publisher of The American Thinker.

For the movie fan, these are the best of times and the worst of times. Hollywood, in thrall to a dissident segment of American culture at war with traditional values, and addicted to special effects, violence, sex, and adrenalin—producing clichés, only rarely deigns to produce and distribute fare which addresses our minds or souls instead of our nether regions. But in the world of DVDs, we have a bounty of artistic delight available any time we want, and we can pause, rewind, and savor on our own ryhthms.

Even as box office returns decline, only a brave few companies think outside the box and bring us meatier fare such as The Passion of the Christ or Sideways, two very different good movies. My own visits to local multiplexes become fewer with each year, special events rather than ordinary recreation. There are simply too many better alternatives available. As movie theatres offer less and less of interest, DVDs offer a burgeoning cornucopia of satisfying and thought—provoking visual entertainment.

The easy availability of a vast world of movies through mail—based DVD rental services like Netflix offers a near—paradise for buffs like me, who once haunted obscure repertory houses in big cities and college towns, in search of rarely—screened gems from the past or from overseas film makers and domestic indie producers.

At their best, movies can transport us to another realm, one outside our own experience, and teach us something about the human condition. The best of them stay with us for the rest of our lives, unforgettable little snippets of life that we incorporate into our own memories, as if we had encountered the characters and the places they inhabit ourselves

One such movie is the Swedish film Lilya 4—ever, directed by Lukas Moodysson, the Swede who notably was called the 'young master' by Ingmar Bergman. Lilya 4—ever is not for everyone. It contains scenes of brutality, raw and unappealing sex, and is horrendously depressing. But it was, for me, a valuable excursion into worlds I never knew, and never hope to know through direct experience. It is also unforgettable.

Told in an extended flashback, Lilya 4—ever is the story of a 16 year girl 'somewhere in the former Soviet Union' (it was filmed in Tallinn, Estonia and Moodyson's hometown, Malmo, Sweden) whose mother one day announces that she is going to the United States to marry an American man she met through a dating/introduction service. Then she breaks the news to her daughter Lilya that she will be left behind, to come later.

Lilya is initially thrilled with the prospect of leaving her terrible surroundings and going to the Promised Land. Her enthusiasm for America is a sight to behold, and tells us a great deal about what many people overseas actually think of our country, no matter what rhetoric they may utter for public consumption.

But the dream turns into a nightmare for Lilya. Her mother abandons her, and later mails the social services bureau that she renounces her responsibilities for Lilya, and entrusts her care to the state. Lilya will have nothing to do with it, of course.

The landscape of suburban housing developments in which Lilya lives is extraordinarily bleak — a wreck of a country and of a social system. It is like an American housing project, with less graffiti and violence, but worse construction. The entire country seems soulless,  selfish, and without direction.

A true innocent, Lilya falls prey to all kinds of trouble. Her only friend is a younger boy named Volodya, a 'throwaway child' expelled by his father for some offense he doesn't understand. As the nightmare deepens, the worst possible outcomes ensue. I won't go into any details, so as to allow readers who see the film to experience it for themselves without foreknowledge.
 
The acting of the two principal characters, Lilya and Volodya, is among the finest child acting I have ever witnessed. Oksana Akinshina, the beautiful Russian child—woman playing Lilya, is entirely believable through some of the worst horrors the mind can imagine. How Moodyson was able to evoke such a performance working through an interpreter is a mystery to me. Artyom Bogucharsky who plays Volodya has a less demanding role, but nevertheless shines through the screen as a soul you feel you have met.

Its merits a movie aside, Lilya 4—ever is quite intriguing in terms of its route to the American viewer's screen. No distributor picked—up the film for video release in the United States, despite the very formidable international box office performance and the critical praise it received in Europe. The video rental service Netflix took it upon itself to make it into a DVD, and offers it to subscribers as an exclusive release.* So, the only way you can see it is to subscribe to Netflix. If you don't currently do so, Netflix offers a two week free trial subscription, and if you are tempted, I would recommend experimenting with Lilya 4—ever on a cost—free basis. If you like movies as much as I do, and enjoy prowling lists of Polish, Korean, and old American movies, for example, you probably will get hooked the way I did, and forget how to drive to the multiplex.

Based on my reading about director Moodyson, I gather that he would easily be categorized as a leftist. Some of his other movies sound unappealing to me, though I will view them if I have the chance, based on his strong showing in Lilya. His politics don't matter. He may very well intend Lilya to be a commentary on the false promise of America, or on the baleful consequences of the fall of the USSR. It doesn't matter. He is telling a story that has the ring of truth, and you can read into it whatever you make of that truth. For me, it tells of the soul—destroying effects of communism, and the importance of parents.

That's the thing about the truth: we all must make of it what we can. Those who present us with it do us a service, whatever their intent.

*For unknown reasons, the Netflix search engine does not respond to the actual name of the film, so use the director's name to search for it on Netflix, should you be interested in renting it.

Thomas Lifson is the editor and publisher of The American Thinker.