Of Shiny New Cars and Modern Society

Tara Karajica of the Berlinale Talent Press reviews Måns Månsson's Berlinale Forum film THE YARD.

Måns Månsson's THE YARD

Based on the prize-winning semi-autobiographical novel of the same name by Kristian Lundberg, Berlinale Forum film THE YARD (Sweden/Germany) follows a single father and struggling poet who suddenly loses his job as a literary critic after reviewing his own book. With no formal education and nothing to fall back on, he tries to maintain his position in lower middle class society as the sole provider for his young son. A temp agency ironically called “Dream Job” places him at Yarden, Malmö’s transshipment hub for import cars. In this cold and gloomy place where solidarity between workers no longer exists, he is renamed 11811, working among immigrants and under the strict regulations of the Swedish management. At home, the relationship with his teenage son quickly crumbles as their lifestyle begins to decline.

Celebrated Swedish cinematographer and director Måns Månsson is an unconventional social observer who defies the narrative conventions of cinema, brilliantly concocting a subtle political study of human loneliness and the structures of authority. He examines how people deal with the issues of integration and what drives the choices they make. Although the book was written in 2009, the film is thoroughly contemporary. The rise of immigration has created “us vs. them” social tensions, and Månsson perfectly conveys it here. His film gives a straightforward take on modern day Sweden, and his approach to the material is not at all sentimentally manipulative. He uses the yard as a mirror of modern society, a prison and labor camp but also the distribution center for the ultimate symbol of freedom: shiny new cars that reflect an ideal hardly anyone can afford. Moreover, he eschews background information on the protagonist or the reasons behind his earlier behavior, but in the current state of affairs, it is not difficult to relate to him.

Social commentary aside, THE YARD is technically impeccable. Ita Zbroniec-Zajt’s grey lensing is evocative and reflective of the film’s subject and atmosphere. The choice of the operatic score is excellent and combined with Patrick Stromdahl’s sound design, gives the film more texture and intensity. As far as the key performance is concerned, theatre actor Andres Mossling is outstanding as 11811.

All in all, THE YARD is a cinematic, soberly observant, powerful and provocative film that raises more questions than it gives answers to.