Thanks to Ronny Carlsson, who puts up with my shit and keeps me in the loop, allowing me to review all of his films before anyone else does.
Review by Annie Riordan
Alma wants a baby.
Fine. Good. And why not? She’s young, she’s beautiful, she’s healthy, she seems to live a fairly affluent life in her native Sweden, happily ensconced in a relationship with Johan, her husband/boyfriend/whatever. They have everything BUT a living, breathing representation of their love. So they start trying…or at least Alma does. Johan doesn’t seem all that into it. He may not even be aware of Alma’s intentions, or he may feel as though Alma is simply using his penis as a sperm gun. His interest in being a father wanes, if it was ever there at all, and the distance between he and Alma grows, even after Alma announces that she’s pregnant.
But is she, really? Or has she simply entered a fantasy world of her own creation, slipping through a chink in her psyche where her madness is fertile, even if her womb is not? As time passes, Alma’s world gets darker and meaner, forcing her to confront the “dust box” that is herself, and what it may or may not contain.
This is Ronny Carlsson’s first straightforward “drama” film, but it absolutely reeks of horror in the dankest, most subterranean sense of the word: dark, secret, foetid and shameful. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Ronny doesn’t make “scary” films, he makes deeply fucking disturbing films. Dare I call them “art” films, stripped of all pretentiousness? Yeah, I think I will. This IS art, and it’s the most mature effort yet from Carlsson, who has already developed a signature style and only gets better with every effort. His unique mark is all over this film, as if after shooting it, he steeped it first in sorrow and baby’s tears before beginning the final editing process.
The score ranges from beautifully bleak to jarringly distorted. The lack of dialogue is actually welcome, although a monologue delivered by Alma late in the film proves that Carlsson can write if he chooses to, and writes well. But Dust Box – as with his other films – speaks best and most voluminously when saying nothing at all. The cinematography ranges from stark and gritty to bright and golden. Several shots actually had me sitting there with my jaw dropped open in awe. The blood is minimal, but it comes when it should and makes its point without being superfluous. And the one true moment of horror, crafted by Marcus Koch, is almost too well done. I won’t spoil the film by revealing what it is, but it’s the jewel in the crown here.
A lot of you know that Ronny is a friend of mine. A lot of you may think that this friendship influences my opinion of his films. A lot of you would be wrong in making that assumption. Ronny has always asked me to be totally and utterly, mercilessly honest when reviewing his films, and I always have been. If I pride myself on anything, it’s on giving honest reviews. Sometimes I think Ronny WANTS me to rip one of his films apart and give it a scathingly negative review…and if any of them had earned one, I would have. Goddamned sadomasochistic Scandinavians, get a sun lamp and deal with it already!
The simple truth of the matter is that I like his films. I think he has enormous talent. And I thought Dust Box was his most vividly gorgeous film yet. It’s not easy for a man to make a film about what goes on in the mind of a woman, and it’s not easy for anyone to make a film with a crew of 6 and a limited budget. Carlsson pulled off both, and “Dust Box” has more than earned its good review.