Swedish independent cinema is an area of cinema I admittedly have very little knowledge of, but if Jimmy Olsson’s Alive (2020) is an indication of the quality of these types of film, then consider me a huge fan. Alive tells the story of Viktoria (Eva Johansson), a young, disabled woman who is yearning for a ‘normal’ life, and the intimacy of a relationship. Viktoria’s carer Ida (Madeleine Martin) wants to help Viktoria by setting her up with a Tinder account, but when she gets a match, Ida becomes concerned about Viktoria’s safety and if she is going to be taken advantage of.
Read our interview with Swedish actress Eva Johansson, where she discusses the challenges she faced in playing the role of Viktoria.
A script that brings its characters to life
As with all short films – Alive has a runtime of just 23 minutes – it is vital that the quality of writing is at a high standard, so the characters are fully formed and easier to sympathise with, and it is here where writer/director Jimmy Olsson truly excels. With a script that is both powerful and emotional, covering some quite serious issues, Olsson still finds time to put in some great moments of humour which never detract from the bigger picture, and only help to maximise the viewer’s enjoyment, and appreciation of the two main characters as well-rounded individuals. These touches of humour were unexpected, but I fully appreciated the lighter moments as the film covered tougher topics.
The writing is fantastic but what truly brings these characters to life is the wonderful performances of the lead actors Eva Johansson and Madeleine Martin. There will always inevitably be some backlash in casting an able-bodied actor in the role of someone with a disability, something the Swedish director talks about in our interview with Jimmy Olsson, but Johansson is so wonderful in the role and her performance is one which really sticks with you long after watching the film.
The struggle for Viktoria to speak and get across her true thoughts to Ida is heartbreaking and at times you can really feel the energy it takes for her to communicate effectively. Johansson has excellent comic timing and delivery, and she appears to have a natural wit which brings the best out of Olsson’s script, especially at one point early on where Viktoria jokingly asks if she can ‘borrow’ Ida’s boyfriend. As the film goes on, we also see Viktoria acting with more independence which is a real testament to her growth as a character.
Madeleine Martin, in the role of Ida, displays great warmth and a genuine concern for Viktoria’s safety and well being. It is Ida’s job to be a carer for Viktoria, but you can tell this is more than just work for her, and she has a genuine affection for the woman she is looking after on a daily basis. There was a risk that her character could be deemed interfering but credit to Martin’s performance for displaying genuine care and emotion which really resonates with the viewer.
Standout performances from Swedish acting talent
Alive (2020) is a simple story on paper, but it is through strong character development, and standout performances from its two female leads that this film really comes alive (sorry, couldn’t resist!). This film is perhaps more impactful now more than ever, as during this pandemic and subsequent lockdowns, loneliness and the lack of basic human interaction and intimacy both on a social and romantic level, has surely affected thousands of people. Credit must also be given to Alive (2020) for giving able-bodied audiences an insight into things they may not have considered before, like relationship struggles for people with disabilities, and is fairly unique in that regard.
Overall, Alive (2020) is a powerful film which makes an incredible impact in such a small amount of time. Coming from an intelligent, heartfelt, and surprisingly witty script by Jimmy Olsson, and with the tremendous pairing of Eva Johansson and Madeleine Martin in the lead roles, this is a short film not to be missed. Olsson’s name is definitely one to look out for, and I look forward to seeing what the future holds for this impressive rising filmmaker.
Director: Jimmy Olsson
Starring: Madeleine Martin, Philip Oros, Jimmy Olsson, Eva Johansson, Joel Odmann
Editor and artwork: Richard Williams
Images courtesy of: Jimmy Olsson