Aclever blend of the narrative styles of “Short Cuts” and “Pulp Fiction,” Daniel Alfredson’s “Tic Tac” is one of the most interesting films to come out of Sweden in a long time. A refreshing, albeit very dark, look at life in Stockholm at the end of the ’90s, pic looks to be limited in B.O. potential, especially on foreign soil, by its demanding approach, but should be given a close look by fest programmers worldwide.
Alfredson, son of actor-director Hans Alfredson, has previously shown considerable promise with several TV series and a couple of features, most notably the solid cop thriller “The Man on the Balcony” (1993). “Tic Tac” is his best work so far. From a complex script by Hans Renhall, he’s crafted an affecting and fascinating movie that’s a rare bird — given its multilayered structure — in the Swedish cinematic forest.
During the course of 24 hours, we meet a bunch of people. Some know one another, some have profound (and tragic) influences on the others, some just pass one another in the street. One is Micke (Oliver Loftien), a desperate young kid who’s decided to burn his school to the ground. While pouring petrol in the school’s basement, he meets Jeanette (Tuva Novotny), a young schoolmate who’s despised by everyone and has decided to start living on the premises.
We also meet two skinheads, Lasse (Emil Forselius) and Jorma (Mats Helin), who have gone to a bar to have a couple of beers and chew over life. The owners of the joint are wary of them, and ready to start a fight if provoked. But everything changes when an immigrant, Pedro (Claudio Salgado), comes in and makes the skinheads an offer they can’t refuse.
Other characters include the frustrated and angry Kent (Jacob Nordenson) and his wife, Ylva (Tintin Anderzon), who’s constantly trying to calm him down. We slowly learn that Kent has been the victim of a scam — instigated by a cop, Niklas (Thomas Hanzon), and his pal Tommy (Douglas Johansson) — that has both ruined and crippled him.
It gradually becomes clear that Alfredson is using a storytelling device similar to that in “Pulp Fiction.” The penny drops in the third reel, when we meet Kent again but this time without the emotional and physical scars that tortured him earlier in the pic. Other oddities are now explained as well, and the movie develops into a dark look at life in a town without mercy.
Alfredson has aimed high here, and he largely succeeds. Helped by the reddish-brown lensing of excellent d.p. Peter Mokrosinski, and the moody music of avant-garde group Flaskkvartetten, Alfredson paints a Stockholm that’s full of loners, miserable people, angst and despair. There’s also a glimmer of hope at the end of a couple of the stories.
Acting by the mostly unknown cast is very good, with special kudos going to young Loftien and Novotny, as the school kids, and the excellent Nordenson, as Kent. Pic’s Swedish title denotes both the passing of time and the sound of a bomb about to explode, like the English “tick tock.”