If you have seen, or subsequently see, any of the films featured on WHYS…? please use the comments or drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org to let me know what you make of the movies or the article. Thanks.
HANNAH MED H [a.k.a. A Different Way]
DIR: Christina Olofson
What’s It All About?
Hannah Med H (literally Hannah With an H) is basically a coming of age movie. It’s about 18 year old Hannah Andersen (Tove Edfeldt), who has just moved out of her parents house. There is little overarching plot, instead we follow Hannah as she deals with attentions of three men; shy Edin (Adnan Zorlak), skinhead Andreas (Joel Kinnaman), with whom she shares a devotion to animal rights, and an older man; Jens (Thomas Mork) who she meets in a coffee shop. Hannah also starts getting mysterious silent phone calls after she has gone to bed, and the question of where those come from is also a central point of the film.
Why Haven’t You Seen It?
It’s never been released in the UK or the US and, were it not for the soundtrack, it would likely be basically unknown outside of Scandinavia (it’s a Swedish film). The soundtrack is by Swedish electro band The Knife, who cannibalised their self titled first album and composed a selection of new tracks (including one with lyrics taken from a poem Hannah writes) to give this film an individual musical identity, and, on the back of the cult success of their Silent Shout album, a way to be discovered by a wider audience.
Why Should You See It?
I’ve said it before, and I’m sure I’ll end up saying it again; teen movies from Europe and Scandinavia just tend to be better. Like other Swedish teen movies like Fucking Amal and The Ketchup Effect, Hannah Med H is more than just a formulaic tale of finding yourself, and finding the perfect guy / girl. It’s also refreshing to see a teen movie protagonist who is pretty normal and confident, actually Hannah is probably the most assured character in the film, and Tove Edfeldt impresses, making her a young woman who seems intelligent, together, and not a little opinionated. Characters, even in good movies, can often feel like characters rather than real people, Hannah doesn’t, she’s a complex bundle of traits with varied interests (it’s not explored in great detail, but she also writes poetry), layers to her character and a quite individual outlook.
This means that the film, despite the fact that there are three guys all interested in Hannah, never becomes just one more film about choosing a boyfriend, because Hannah often makes it clear that she has only a limited interest in sex. Instead writer/director Christina Olofson’s film deals largely with the awkward process of Hannah’s growing friendships with the three men, and her initial determination to keep things platonic. Much of this is done in gesture; in the scenes when Hannah and Andreas are hanging out his intent is often clear in the ways he moves towards her, and there are several moments that will feel pretty familiar to most of the male audience, as it never quite happens for him.
The performances are strong all round. Tove Edfeldt is well cast, and gives a naturalistic performance that makes Hannah a really three dimensional character, even when, on occasion, Olofson’s screenplay seems to use her interest in animal rights to lecture us, Edfeldt makes us believe in and like Hannah. The other characters are somewhat less developed, but all are well played. There is an especially charming performance from young Bibjana Mustafaj as Edin’s younger sister and Adnan Zorlak and Joel Kinnaman are both strong as Hannah’s two main suitors. The other real standout is Thomas Mork, who is both intriguing and creepy as Jens, and is the main reason that an outlandish twist in the film’s last twenty minutes (if you can tell me you guessed it then you are either a liar or a psychic) just about works, even if it is not as dark as is first implied.
No discussion of this film would be complete without acknowledging the brilliance of its soundtrack. The Knife are one of my favourite bands in the world, and even at this early stage of their careers their music is beguilingly strange and evocative. Sometimes it sits at odds with the scenes, but it builds an identity and a feeling for the film that really helps it stand out
I can’t really discuss much more about Hannah Med H, other than to say that the creepy undertone introduced by the silent calls does pay off, and that the ending will throw you for a loop, but that you mustn’t have it spoiled for you.
I can’t discuss the film’s real standout moment, so instead here are a couple of samples from The Knife’s amazing score.
How Can You See It?
It’ll be hard. There’s no UK or US DVD, the Swedish release is deleted. Scour the internet is basically all I can suggest.
Ian Holm, Sarah Polley and Atom Egoyan: THE SWEET HEREAFTER