The story of The Heart (Hjärtat, 2018), which was screened during the 15th Crossing Europe Film Festival Linz, starts, like many others, with a broken heart and a poem – and yet, it is not like other stories. The base for the script was a 52-pages-long collection of poems which young and fiery Swedish director, Fanni Metelius, wrote to deal with her emotions after a breakup. Her first feature film is a focused, affectionate and fun tale about love, sex and becoming an adult. You might remember Metelius from her role as Fanny in Östlund’s critically acclaimed international hit Force Majeure (Turist, 2014). This time around, besides starring in the lead role, she also wrote, directed and edited her own film; not an easy task to take on.
The Heart revolves around two main characters; Mika (Fanni Metelius) and Tesfai (Ahmed Berhan). She studies photography, he studies music. She is funny, smart and casually outgoing. He is a bit more serious and shy. They make the perfect couple – so it makes perfect sense to move in together. But after a while, the feelings of first love, the excitement and the level of dopamine in the ventral tegmental area of their brains start to fade away. The energy, the craving, and the motivation start to settle down. The sex drive is gone. He is not interested anymore. She is invested and tries to work on the relationship; he can’t be bothered. She wants to grow; he wants to stay the same (and keep on playing video games).
Metelius dives into the depths of the relationship and explores how it develops over a substantial period of time. She is interested in the role of sex and love in a human life. Her attentive and discrete examination resembles the one in Andrew Haigh’s Weekend (2011) or in Linklater’s Before trilogy (2005 – 2013). The Heart is full of thoughtful details and emotional honesty,; it never shies away from the hard and more complicated sides of the relationship. The film’s colour palette recalls the vibrancy, playfulness and the trashiness of Spring Breakers (2012), although here, they are somewhat toned down. The visual style is slightly elevated, so we are aware that we are watching the past; the memories.
This probably does not sound like anything new under the sun, but Metelius tackles a lot of important issues along the way. She debunks the idea that men need sex more that women. She pays a lot of attention to the female desire; not only that, she is successful in filming the sex scenes (which take up a god portion of film) without objectifying the female or the male body in the process. Not only that – The Heart is also an excellent and subtle female coming-of-age tale. If you do not pay attention, you might miss that, even though Metelius is perfect in the lead role, carefully capturing all of the hard realizations in the process of growing up – and also growing apart.
There is this great scene in the middle of the film, when Tesfai and Mika go to visit her parents on the countryside. It’s raining. They are standing outside, one dressed in a red raincoat, the other one in blue. They are brushing their teeth. In this everyday, almost banal moment, we can feel the intense intimacy and connection that they share. The sort of intimacy that we cannot even find in the sex scenes. And this might also be one of the main points of the film – that intimacy is not just sex. We can also find it elsewhere, everywhere: from the feel of the sun on our skin, in the genuine companionship, to holding a new born baby in the arms. We can all find that deep connection and the truth within ourselves.
Written by Ana Šturm
Edited by Sanja Struna
All photos © Maja Dennhag