Scandinavian 2015 Review: YOUNG SOPHIE BELL, A Beguiling, Sublime Mystery

Editor; Australia (@Kwenton)
Scandinavian 2015 Review: YOUNG SOPHIE BELL, A Beguiling, Sublime Mystery
Obsession, mystery, murder and betrayal culminate in a fragile coming-of-age story unlike any other in Amanda Adolfsson's stunning Swedish debut feature Young Sophie Bell.

The titular Sophie (the radiant Felice Jankell) has just graduated high school and celebrates with her 'bestie' Alice (Hedda Stiernstedt) surrounded by the sea, the sun and a coquettish array of teenagers, the two girls plan their post-graduation lives together. Amidst young love and petty jealousies, theirs is a wistful relationship more intense than any other, but after a particularly regretful tiff Alice leaves to reside in Berlin alone.

Their grudge is maintained and they do not even speak to each other as stubbornness prevails, but when Sophie suddenly receives the jolting news that Alice is found dead in Germany she is overcome with maddening grief and compelled to find out what happened. Without permission she travels there, conducting her own investigation and finding many links on the way that point towards not only what really happened, but also, and most tragically, why.

Not only is Young Sophie Bell a captivating murder mystery, it also manages to layer heartrending character drama, self-discovery and maturity in its sublime plot. The tender femininity is perfectly weighted by reality and the characters feel both real and unattainable as a result.

Much like Sofia Coppola's The Virgin Suicides, the Swedish nymph's that inhabit this film take on an ethereal quality that is grounded by the foreign and imperfect generation Y hub that is Berlin. There Sophie finds Alice's former housemates and employers; people that burst the bubble of infinite youth and introduce Sophie to harsh realities. The beauty of the film however is that Sophie, through her sleuthing arrives at the answers all on her own.

One flatmate in particular is the enigmatic Lisa (Jella Hasse), a hipster Berliner and counterculture rebel that acclimates and aids Sophie in her various quests. Her performance is an extremely memorable one and although off-kilter she, along with many others in the film, is a very relatable character.

Sophie finds temporary companionship, friendship and conflict in the new world she becomes associated with, leading to choices, mistakes and consequences emblematic of a girl trying to find herself but bolstered by the dangerous realities of the death she is tracing.

This also becomes an issue of identity when Sophie pores through Alice's belongings in her Berlin apartment and begins to amalgamate her persona; wearing her clothes, accessories, make-up and taking on the routine of her former urban life and forgetting the relative innocence of her Swedish one.

The striking contrast in these lives are mainly presented through the actual locales and are definitely one of the film's biggest strengths. From the sun-drenched, clean plain cliff-sides, stables and tidy streets of Sweden, to the messy, chaotic, art-driven cityscape of Berlin, each place serves as a point of maturation, contention and mystery.

This also carries with it some circular logic. The film opens with Sophie burying something on a serene coast in Sweden and by film's end the impact of this scene is truly felt once her German journey has been experienced.

Carrying these melancholic and yet youthful tones is a soundtrack that bleeds generational contradictions of angst and hopefulness. The poppy indie sensibilities vibrantly and mournfully reflect the young Sophie's journey and once she has the answers a perfectly pleasant pop hit carries the film into its credits, both powerful in its lyrics and finality of Sophie's story before she is young no more.

Young Sophie Bell is a fascinating revelation for coming-of-age stories; masterfully directed and performed, it is a beautiful tragic trip of love and loss that is truly hard to forget.

Young Sophie Bell is playing as part of the Scandinavian Film Festival Australia-wide. Check the website for more information and session times.
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Amanda AdolfssonAustraliaComing-of-agePalace CinemaScandinavian Film FestivalSwedenunga sophie bellYoung Sophie Bell

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