Friday, August 22, 2014

Goodbye, Little Betty

“Little Betty’s sleeping in the graveyard, living there in burgundy and white.
Dead babies can’t take care of themselves, dead babies can’t take things off the shelf.
Well, we didn’t love you anyway.
Goodbye, Little Betty…”
 ~ Alice Cooper

Wow, what a pretentious piece of shit this film is. Overlong, tedious, derivative… jeez, this makes A Serbian Film look like a masterpiece of sublime subtlety. Oh if only this movie could have been drowned in the tub like an unwanted kitten. Please, for the love of God, somebody nuke Sweden before it can produce another flaming bag of runny feces like this one.
I’m totally kidding,of course. This is the fourth film by Ronny Carlsson that I’ve had the honor of watching/reviewing, and – given his masochistic penchant for demanding truth, even if it means an abysmally negative review – I thought I’d finally give him what he’s been half-expecting and sort of asking for all these years.
Goodbye, Little Betty is – in Carlsson’s own words – an attempt to return to a more “spontaneous, experimental side of filmmaking that isn’t as present in a more planned and budgeted film likeDust Box,” Carlsson’s previous full-length dramatic feature due to be released on DVD later this year. Filmed entirely on a camera phone, Betty is the woefully bleak tale of a girl, as silent and beautiful as the frozen Swedish landscape she wanders through. Seemingly oblivious to the beauty of winter around her, “Betty” (poetess and collaborator Daniela Melin – a gorgeous, raven-haired waif) is drawn to electrical wire, able to find it embedded in the floorboards of abandoned houses or hidden in the thick forest undergrowth. Every length of cord she finds goes into her backpack and then she’s off again, crossing icy creeks and crunching through the snow like a carefree child. Like a crow, Betty’s eye is drawn to anything and everything that is shiny and metallic, all of which is added to her scavenger’s collection. But as her journey continues and no clear destination makes itself known, Betty’s utter aloneness becomes increasingly more apparent and the silence grows deafening. Is she wandering through a post-apocalyptic world? Or is she trapped in her own world, isolated by her addiction to technology and inability to “connect” with the real world?
Several years ago, I came across a photo on some image sharing site or another. It depicted a group of teenagers walking together on a bright, Spring day. But rather than conversing amongst themselves, every single one of them held a cell phone in their hand and stared silently down as they walked, lost in their own little worlds and seemingly oblivious of everything, and everyone, around them. It perfectly captured the reality of the mass disconnect that our society is drowning in, and reinforcing the truth of the matter: that we have willingly jumped into the deep end without a life preserver. Goodbye, Little Betty is the moving version of that photograph: stark, hopeless and unforgivingly honest. In its own way, it’s a new take on the Eco-Horror genre: what happens when we step out from behind our avatars and back into the real world? We’ve literally lost our connection. There’s nothing left to discuss that can’t be found on Google, nothing left to see that hasn’t been uploaded to Pinterest. We’re cyber-cattle, grazing in a field of instant gratification, and when the plug is suddenly pulled, we’re lost and alone.
Whoa, that was heavy. Lookit me, bein’ all profound and shit.
Anyway… clocking in just under an hour and featuring no dialogue until the final moments – when Melin finally demonstrates her poetic skill – GLB sneaks up on you gradually, slowly squirming into your subconscious and quietly whispering “horror” all the while. I said once before that Ronny makes disturbing movies as opposed to scary ones, and GLB is no different. It’s visceral quicksand, sucking you down so slowly and gracefully, you won’t even notice the danger until it’s filling your lungs and flooding your mouth with darkness. Only in the final moments will you feel the full impact of the horror. And then it’s too late.

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