Review: ‘Wild Angel’

A sometimes engaging study of a bunch of teenage misfits given a sense of purpose by a self-staged musical, "Wild Angel" will seem too mild in its portrayal of disaffected youth to resonate far beyond Scandinavia, and looks destined for small-screen sales in the rest of Europe. Freshman writer-director Christer Engberg based the pic on his own experiences at a special school in Lulea, in northern Sweden, where he still teaches amateur thesps. Jim is a self-absorbed, emotionally unstable teen from a Stockholm suburb who's sent off to a reform school in a northern coastal town. His fellow pupils are a mixed bunch of nerds and social rebels, under the tutelage of Conny, an impassioned teacher. With the help of Stina, a choreographer, Conny tries to extract the devil within them by staging a musical he's written, with mixed and sometimes explosive results.

A sometimes engaging study of a bunch of teenage misfits given a sense of purpose by a self-staged musical, “Wild Angel” will seem too mild in its portrayal of disaffected youth to resonate far beyond Scandinavia, and looks destined for small-screen sales in the rest of Europe. Freshman writer-director Christer Engberg based the pic on his own experiences at a special school in Lulea, in northern Sweden, where he still teaches amateur thesps.

Jim is a self-absorbed, emotionally unstable teen from a Stockholm suburb who’s sent off to a reform school in a northern coastal town. His fellow pupils are a mixed bunch of nerds and social rebels, under the tutelage of Conny, an impassioned teacher. With the help of Stina, a choreographer, Conny tries to extract the devil within them by staging a musical he’s written, with mixed and sometimes explosive results.

Directing in a fairly loose style, Engberg succeeds in giving most of the characters distinct personalities, and there’s some welcome humor (mostly directed at stuffy bureaucrats) as the story opens up. But there’s a sense that, in most other societies — and even compared with some of the grittier youth movies now coming from Scandi countries — these misfits would hardly rate as such, robbing the movie of much dramatic impact.

Performances from the young cast (several of them Engberg’s former pupils) are fine within their limits, and technically everything is up to scratch.

Wild Angel

Swedish

Production

A Svensk Filmindustri release (in Sweden) of a Giraff Film production, in association with Kulturskolan Rosteriet, Filmpool Nord, Svensk Filmindustri. (International sales: Latalante Film, Lulea, Sweden.) Produced by John O. Olsson. Directed by Christer Engberg. Screenplay, Engberg, John O. Olsson. Reviewed at Edinburgh Film Festival, Aug. 21, 1997. (Also in Haugesund Film Festival.) Running time: 94 MIN.

Crew

Camera (color), Olsson; editor, Hakan Karlsson; music, Engberg; art direction, Staffan Hagglan; costume design, Lena Lidman; sound (Dolby SR), Jan Brodin.

With

Jim - Mattias Barthelsson Conny - Fredrik Gunnarsson Linda - Nadia Morin Reijo - Patrik Johansson Stina - Anne-Sophie Rase Viktor - Martin Wikstrom

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