Stockholm My Love Review
Stockholm My Love follows an architect who is back in her hometown of Stockholm to give a talk on the city and its architecture. However, she instead takes a walking tour exploring the city as well as her guilt and grief over a tragic event. The plot really isn't important. Indeed none of Mark Cousins' films has an important story. Instead, Cousins presents us with a pseudo-documentary, that looks and feels very similar to his 15-hour documentary series The Story of Film. It places equal footing to explore the city of Stockholm as to the exploration of Neneh Cherry's character and their experience.
The film is shot by Christopher Doyle, the award-winning cinematographer behind Wong Kar-wai's In The Mood For Love, a gorgeous film full of exquisite moody shots of longing and lost opportunity. Here there are also brief glimpses of iconic images in expressive framing and movement. However, these great shots are somewhat hampered by a documentary aesthetic that use grading artificial lighting and tripods for the most part. This can become quite confusing as parts of the film serve as a documentary about Stockholm and in others an exploration of Neneh Cherry's psychology, and both parts don't quite gel.
I commend the filmmakers on their bold blending of cinematic traditions, there are even some elements of the musical in there. But the plot is drawn out at a snail's pace and the themes and ideas feel well trodden, even if the structure and construction don't. Cousins has always been a visual poet, being able to expound such beautiful ideas about movie and feeling. but here he sounds like a teenager who has just realised that he is the deepest person in the world.
I personally enjoyed Cousins Story of Film, and I love to hear his voice both in the literal sense and in the way that he constructs his movies. However, with Stockholm My Love this voice gets muddled. It never felt like it contained the dialogue that Cousins has always been good at. I felt like I was being lectured at. In that regard, it becomes clear that this isn't a film that is to be watched, but it is a film to talk about.
The BFI has presented this film in 1080p 24fps with an aspect ratio of 1.78:1. The soundtrack is either a DTS-HD Master Audio or 2.0 PCM stereo, with multiple language tracks and subtitle options, from English, Swedish, to a multi-language track. All of these audio channels and visual images are clear without any digital errors. The menus are laid out in an easy to use manner, making this BFI release a technically solid one.
This, I think, is where Stockholm My Love belongs. This movie is not a movie, it is a conversation about a movie. A film to say that you have seen it and that you understand it and tell people what it is about. These extras allow you to do these things in a way to make you sound like you understood the film. The BFI have packaged this Blu-ray with a couple of trailers and a teaser, of course, but they also include some absolutely gorgeous behind-the-scenes stills, which I highly recommend you peruse.
Another short extra is a two minute clip of Mark Cousins' notebook that shows him planning the film. We see into the thought process of this filmmaker and how he approaches making films. This is then expounded up with the behind-the-scenes footage as well as a narrated collection of location shots that seek to explain the meanings behind the movie, with Mark Cousins' Northern Irish lilt waxing poetically about architecture, loneliness and other artsy things.
These extras, I would say, help frame a potential conversation about this film. If it weren't for them and an understanding of Mark Cousins I had sort of gleaned from his Story of Film series, Stockholm My Love would be almost impenetrable.
Stockholm My Love is a film that is there to appreciate; it is not there to enjoy. It is an experience gleaned in an art cinema, and then onto an upscale bar to discuss. That is both a good and bad thing depending on how you approach the film. It is certainly unique and while there is a certain sense of accomplishment for having seen it (and understanding it), the film never fully resonated with me, as though Cousins, Cherry, and Christopher Doyle were trying to keep their audience at arm's length. The extras go some way in exploring the film and its themes and give insights into the attitudes of the filmmakers which you can bring to discussions or rewatches of Stockholm My Love, but it just means that the film becomes a summary of the plot rather than a movie in itself. I can't wholeheartedly recommend a purchase as this is the sort of film that would be better served watched and then followed with a Q&A event or at a film festival for a communal experience which can then be discussed afterwards by other likeminded film fans.