Something Must Break (2014)
Described by the IMDB as A gritty story taking place in Stockholm, about the passionate love between the self-abusive Sebastian who wants to be a woman, and the easy-going Andreas who is certainly not gay.
And in this IMDB description we see flaws as the film is far better than that. But this is clearly for cisgender folk to go see what turned out to be a great film. Find out what Sam thought about this new movie.
TRANSGENDER ZONE MOVIE REVIEW
It has been around the film festivals and soon to be at the BFI festival in London more on that, and dates and times you can view it at the bottom of the page.
The Rise and Rise of the Trans Creatives
Director Ester Martin Bergsmark (Wikipedia)
Written and Directed by Trans* Ester Martin Bergsmark and the Beautiful Trans* Identified Award-Winning (Best Actress at Guldbaggegalan 2015) Saga Becker. This movie Demonstrates that transgender people can and do make very powerful films, and can comfortably manage leading roles.
I have always said this is where the trans* community was very weak,. Mainstream film and television tend maintain a tokenistic transgender supporting cast, if they are in luck they may even speak (Trans America 2005 is a prime example), often seen as incapable of holding the fort in a leading role. With roles being handed to safer performers in this case ironically Eddie Redmayne (who is to play Lili Elbe who was a historical transgender figure and now in Production) yet one might say as Lili was a Danish Painter Saga Becker (in this film) already has a Nordic accent and how much better she would have been in the role authenticity alone would carry her along, Felicity Huffman (Oscar Nominated), Jared Leto (Oscar, ‘Dallas Buyers’ Club), or Melvil Poupaud in ‘Laurence Anyways’ (2012), or even as trans men, ‘Boys Don’t Cry'(1999) (Oscar for Hilary Swank), Plus countless examples that include ‘Bad Education’ and other films that have some dependence on Transgender characters, but for some reason it is still felt that a transgender person is unsuitable to actually play a trans* character. This I personally find is not only lazy on behalf of the production companies. I mean, in the case of Lili Elbe being from Denmark, any northern European with an accent could play the role. But why bother(?) when you can just play it safe and ask Eddie Redmayne.
Fortunately Sweden is a bit more enlightened when it comes to common sense and this film demonstrates in one fell swoop, that we can no longer have it any other way. Pretending to be trans makes no sense any more than pretending to be black, and after watching this I am sure you will agree why this is. As just do a mental swap halfway through this movie and throw in, say, Eddie Redmayne(?) as the Sebastian and give it some thought. It would just starve out the authenticity as much as blacking up a white actor to be President of the United States would. It would be ludicrous and intolerable to watch.
Historically transgender people more often than not have to dance to the some Wild West gunshots to the feet to entertain their paymasters. This is the exact opposite. here we have transgender people laying claim to a narrative that they can deliver better than any cisgender actor pretending to be trans. I would struggle to imagine anyone let alone a cisgender actor playing Sebastian better than Saga Becker in this instance. Not a chance! As part of what made this special and enthralling was the outwardly startling androgynous appearance (and the lived experience) of this actor both pre and post transition. There is just something in the eyes, It says, “I understand this, I know this feeling,” and that is projected out to the viewer, This maintained my attention where so many others fail, even some blockbusters are overlong and self-indulgent, and I wanted to know more, it left me wanting more, what next for Sebastian who is transitioning to Ellie? I Need to see another film.
Gritty Urban Netherworld
The movie (With subtitles) is filmed in the present and set in the dark (film treatment grey/green) Urban and gritty netherworld of Stockholm in Sweden. It features Sebastian, who works in a warehouse, At first glance this alone can be confusing, as the viewer is immediately thrown into the androgynous look of this character. FTM? GenderQueer? Transwoman? where are we going with this?
Transgender viewers, will likely begin to assemble Sebastian’s identity from the get go, and may see this film in a completely different way to say the GLB and Cisgender prople. There are threads and nuances in this that at times are very moving. And also more subtle comments that actually created a physical stomach churn for me.
When Andreas who is struggling with Ellie’s anatomy we hear, “get yourself a p*ssy for f*ck’s sake!” We witness trans*panic, and this dialogue, “I am destroying myself to become my dream sister ellie.”
Some dialogue in this movie that maybe just words to anyone other than transgender people, trans* people will likely feel these words! And relate to many of the themes, in this on-off fractured relationship, surrounded by sex, poverty and crime.
We watch as Sebastian who lives as a gay man turning tricks, and generally ‘troubled’, who then finds ‘himself’ in a situation that many trans* people fear, and is on the verge of suffering a serious assault. However, he is rescued by the handsome Andreas played by Iggy Malmborg (below), who to many viewers will be instantly recognisable for his work as Sören Holmgren in the Nordic Noir series ‘The Bridge’.
This was very good casting indeed as the leads have a chemistry that I found electric. Even the protracted scenes, maintain the gaze purely because of how they work together.
[i]Something Must Break[/i], is, a for want of a better word, a no holds barred c*ck and f*ckfest! Obviously it is censored to mere suggestion in many instances (it is therefore soft porn by any standards of the internet today which will please some viewers, and some maybe shocked by the way Sebastian leads ‘his’ life. The cottaging, the drinking, the drugs, the glue-sniffing, the danger, the theft (Ellie needs clothes so line a bag with tinfoil and goes and steals some), and often unsavoury language that gets straight to the point (literally). From being urinated on, to approaching men in public lavatories.
To many this will suggest a stereotyping, and cliched view of transgender people as ‘deviants’, when in reality Sebastian is just surviving the best way ‘he’ knows how, as after all the people making this film are trans* and very successful at what they do, so why not a film about that? This may result in some controversy, but controversy is good for the box office after all.
Sebastian wants to transition to Ellie, this is a complication in this movie. As Saga Becker (Google her) is so beautiful, I found her more feminine as Sebastian than as Ellie. As Ellie she was in her comfort zone (for obvious reasons), and scenes where the only ‘tell’ seems to be eye-liner felt less tense. So I have to say, I think as an artist, to play a male when she identifies otherwise, challenges the whole argument that transgender people cannot play pre-transition roles.
Throughout the film The lines were a bit too clear cut, when you have a lead like Saga Becker, in reality she would be misgendered far more often than she is here, the fact that a bit of eyeliner changes everything and no one even thinks to ask what Sebastian’s gender identifier is, at times felt like uh? However, this was something perhaps the director (also trans*) wanted to push to uncomfortable levels. This as a result challenges what gender is. and how it is viewed by the paying trans* and non-trans* public alike.
I want to say more, but it would be a spoiler and this is not what this review is about. This is a pre-release Film Review and not one written as an opinion piece after it has been broadcast – as so many I write are.
What I would say is, if you are looking for something gritty, sexy, and at times challenging to watch, and don’t mind subtitles, then this is a no-brainer! Go see it, you will leave the cinema with your head in a bit of a spin! But all the better for it!
However, if you are concerned about sexual themes, dank and ‘dirty’ and sometimes violent issues that the Swedes do so well in Nordic Noir, then put it down as a ‘maybe’?
Transgender Director and Lead!
Feeds into the British love of Nordic Noir style film-making with the awesome Stockholm backdrop, music, and is as gritty as it was possible to shoot.
Very little is left to the imagination (within legal film-making boundaries)!
It leans too far into the seedier side of transgender life. Transgender people tend to be cast as third hooker from the right in most films – particularly those made by Pedro Almodóvar. This may have been an opportunity to have done something completely new as a concept, rather than playing it safe with the tried and tested pathways done so often before. But that sadly would make less of an impact. *
So it drops one star for this issue. so for now, small steps, and just be thankful that the lead and director are perfect at last!
4 Stars or 5 Stars?
This is a tough one as on the one hand we have a film that is trans* led but on the other, the themes will be seen by some as stereotypical ones that we should be moving away from. *When I first wrote this review I gave it a 4, but upon reflection, I think it deserves a 5 (our top mark), simply because the acting is believable and authentic, passionate and expertly delivered, and the team behind the cameras was led by a trans* Director. I think this is enough to overlook any shortcomings.
So 5 Stars it is! A must see movie that is relevant in 2015 as a transgender work of art. When other films still insist on casting non-transgender people, this movie bucks the trend and is now one of the benchmarks for Hollywood to aspire to in casting alone. I tend to think that films like this will make other movies with cisgender actors playing transgender roles increasingly appear laughable and fraudulent. A message to Hollywood that those days are slipping away!
Sam (About this Fim Critic)
Where and When can I see ‘Something Must Break‘?
Date and Location: BFI
SMB will be shown on the 20th (6:30pm), 21st (8:40pm) and 22nd (8:20pm) of March, ticket prices vary between £8-£12 depending on seating/student etc
Full cinema list of where it is being shown available soon.
Many Thanks to Matthew and Sabina at Network Distributing for the pre-release Screener DVD and invite.
Film Review: ‘Something Must Break’ by TransgenderZone.com
Running time: 1h 40mins.
Original title: “Nanting maste ga sonder”
Production: Produced by Anna-Maria Kantarius. Co-producers, Jessica Ask, Daniel Thisell. Executive producers, Rebecka Lafrenz, Mimmi Spang.
Crew: Directed by Ester Martin Bergsmark. Screenplay, Eli Leven, Bergsmark, inspired by the novel “You Are the Roots That Sleep Beneath My Feet and Hold the Earth in Place” by Leven. Camera (color), Lisabi Fridell, Minka Jakerson; editors, Bergsmark, Andreas Nilsson, Marlene Billie Andreasen, Hanna Storby; music supervisor, Rasmus Thord; production designer, Elin Magnusson; costume designer, Erik Annerborn; sound, Jess Wolfsberg; casting, Siri Hjorton-Wagner, Alexi Carpentieri. With Saga Becker, Iggy Malmborg, Shima Niavarani, Mattias Ahlen.
The Press Release is Below
SOMETHING MUST BREAK (cert TBC)
TO BE RELEASED IN UK CINEMAS