We are the Best! – Swedish Art House Film

movie posterI’d seen advertisements for the film “We are the Best!” a few times over the past year, but I had always ignored them. Interestingly, the reason for this, aside from the fact that it’s Swedish and reading the subtitles seemed too much like hard work, was because of the exclamation mark in the title. To me, it made the film look unprofessional, because in my opinion, when it comes to titles less is more. I generally go for films which have simple, non-fussy titles and the exclamation mark coupled with the pink and blue made it too noisy. Of course that that was very judgmental and after watching the film, I now understand exactly why they chose to use the exclamation mark, because I feel putting it in the title was a very conscious decision.

We are the Best! is a film which follows the lives of three 13 year old punk kids as they decide to start a band, despite not knowing how to play any instruments. The film manages to capture perfectly that strange time that we all go through when we’re 13 where we no longer want to feel like children but at the same time we’re not old enough to be seen as grown up, and a lot of people feel like they don’t fit in anywhere. You watch the three teenagers in the film start to act like they’re older: trying alcohol, getting into “relationships”, rebelling against society. But at the same time, the film always manages to remind us that they’re still young and immature. When you’re younger, you’re more emotional, all events that happen are more exaggerated to you because you are less aware of the world around you. In the film, when the smallest things go wrong, they react as if it’s the end of the world, and equally, when they’re happy, their reactions are wild and excitable. This is the reason why there’s an exclamation mark in the title, because the title is trying to encapsulate this youthful energy that you still possess when you’re 13.

There is a lot that can be learnt from the camerawork in this movie. It’s very good to study, because often in big-budget movies, the camera movements involve dollys, helicopters, CGI, and other things that that amateur filmmakers working in their bedroom can’t afford and can’t replicate. The end results of these big movies are effective, but lower budget movies like this one are much better for inspiration, because they can still use the the camerawork to help tell the story whilst only using hand held and maybe a tripod, meaning that people like me can use it as influence for our own work. In We are the Best, the camera has two different ways of filming. Sometimes the shots are very steady shots, cutting between short and long, fairly generic. But other times, the shots much more dynamic, with the camera swinging about instead of cutting and zooming into close ups of faces instead of cutting to close up shots. But these two ways of filming are not done by accident, they are chosen carefully. Take this clip as an example.

As soon as the conversation gets serious and the woman starts talking about reporting them to the police, the camera becomes fairly steady, with regular cuts.

In this clip, however, when the two girls start messing around with the instruments, the cutting becomes irregular and the camera zooms and pans more often.

This clip is the same as the last. They are getting very into writing their new song. They’re passionate about punk and they’re passionate about hating sport, and this is shown in the camera movement. In fact in this clip there is hardly any cutting, it is mostly just the camera moving about and focusing on different parts of the shot. Whenever the teenagers get excited or emotionally involved in something, that’s when their childishness they still have from being young comes out, and that’s when the camera becomes more dynamic and reckless. As I mentioned before, they are trying to live in an adult world whilst still being young at heart, and every time the camera swings and zooms around like in this clip, it is symbolising the huge amounts of energy that the teenagers have in that moment, when their minds are going a million miles an hour.

Although this film is concentrated on portraying the emotions you feel as a teenager and music is generally used as a way to spark emotions in an audience, this movie uses no background music. The only time music is present is when the actual characters in the movie play their music. It works for this, because the acting, camerawork, and set designs are enough to tell the story, and too much music would dull the power of it. The characters playing their own music is a nice touch, because it makes it feel as though they are creating their own soundtracks for their lives, rather than the film giving them one. The song lyrics are always relevant to what’s just happened in the film and the way the characters are feeling at the moment.

song lyrics 1song lyrics 2

It really grounds the movie because you can watch the characters trying to deal with their emotions using the music and you can connect with them and the way they’re feeling.

This film is all about really trying to get into the heads of the characters in it, and is always bringing it back to the idea of youth and growing up. One of the main ways they show this is by the way they’ve designed the bedrooms for each person.

room 1room2

The two main characters’ rooms are actually very similar, showing their friendship and how close they are to each other. In both rooms there is an interesting mix of objects, because on the walls are multiple posters of punk bands and ones with political messages on them, but also in the room are more childish things, like a stuffed toy, paper mask and the brightly patterned bed sheets. The objects are messily strewn everywhere and the rooms are cluttered, symbolising how they’re both going through a stage of growing up and away from their childhood, but they’re not quite there yet, and it’s it’s putting a lot of mental strain on them, causing them to feel a lot more emotion than normal (hence the messiness). When you compare it with an adults room you can see the difference.

room 3

See how plain it is next to the other rooms. It’s going back once again to the youthful energy and showing how we lose it as we grow up. The messiness of emotion that you feel in your teenage years when you still feel like the world is your oyster is replaced by the plain acceptance of reality.

A final thing that might be worth noticing are the lights in the rooms. There’s a whole array of different lights like these ones that are used throughout the movie to light up the rooms, and I feel that even they might be able to tell us something about the characters. When you’re younger, you’re not as aware about what’s going on in the world, and so everything feels much more centered around you. This is reflected in the way the lights are angled in the teenagers’ bedrooms because they are acting like spotlights on them, as if suggesting they feel centre of attention. But the lights in the mums room are not pointed at her, they’re are shining on everything around her, showing how she feels her place in the world is a very small one and the world is so big compared with her. It’s a realisation that a lot of people get, where they feel very insignificant in the world, and some people take this as a negative whereas others take it as a positive though.

So to sum it up, this film has taught me more than i thought it would. It’s shown me how a character’s emotions can be expressed using the movement of the camera, it’s shown me how to create a movie that can connect with the audience without relying on music to do all the work, and it’s shown me that even the smallest parts of a scene, like a lamp, are opportunities to try and visually tell the story.

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One Response to We are the Best! – Swedish Art House Film

  1. kendalcollegefilm says:

    THis is an outstanding piece of work, Kitty, using excellent clips and shots to demonstrate your points. Your frame analysis and understanding of mise-en-scene is continuing to improve, and in this instance combines brilliantly with your personal reading of the film to explain and explore how it works. Very well done. I’m also pleased you recognise the value of this exercise in challenging your own preconceptions and expectations in cinema. Good stuff.


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