DOXA 2014 review: The Reunion

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      In Swedish with English subtitles.

      With Swedish conceptual artist Anna Odell's debut feature, the 1998 Danish film The Celebration and the 2013 Swedish drama Hotell come to mind in which dramatic outbursts expose the emotional ineptitude of social propriety.

      In the case of The Reunionstaged is the operative word here.

      Odell gained notoriety in 2009 when she was charged for faking a suicide attempt, using up police and psychiatric resources, as part of an art project.

      In The Reunion, Odell continues to explore the blurring of reality and fiction—with uneven results.

      After Odell found out she was the only one who wasn't invited to her 20-year high-school reunion, she shot a film with actors acting out what could have happened had she attended. The fictional piece, which comprises the first half of this film, is a voyeuristic revenge fantasy, with Odell lashing out at her former classmates for all the wrongdoings they committed against her, including bullying and socially excluding her. It's a gawking point that will resonate with anyone who has wanted to face off against those who they couldn't in the past. 

      The second half of the film follows Odell as she purportedly tracks down the classmates to ask them to watch the film, and to discuss what happened. Many of them avoid her phone calls, and when she does manage to meet with some of them, they inevitably express discomfort or avoid responsibility.

      What Odell hopes to ultimately achieve by meeting with her former classmates remains too broad to yield any fresh commentary on the nature of bullying, social structures, or confrontations. In fact, the ambiguous line between fact and fiction winds up being too clever and slick with its multilayered metafiction to the point of distraction. Although beautifully shot and constructed, the film's intriguing core concept is undermined by an overemphasis on craft and not enough attention given to deeper emotional insights.

      Vancity Theatre, May 6 (7:30 p.m.)