Three Miles North of Molkom

Gleefully snarky, thoroughly entertaining and ultimately bittersweet, "Three Miles North of Molkom" hews about as closely to feature filmmaking as a docu can while still being considered nonfiction -- as such, its commercial prospects are likely more solid than most docu.

Gleefully snarky, thoroughly entertaining and ultimately bittersweet, “Three Miles North of Molkom” hews about as closely to feature filmmaking as a docu can while still being considered nonfiction — as such, its commercial prospects are likely more solid than most docu. Set among the fruity-nutty New Age aspirants of Sweden’s No Mind Festival, “Molkom” seems prime territory for a studio remake. Still, other than big names, it’s hard to imagine what Hollywood could bring to a film already so cleverly choreographed and cast with such indelible characters.

The One Mind Fest, an annual occurrence in the forests of northern Sweden, attracts all sorts of dubious folk looking for dubious insights and revelations. The group at the center of “Three Miles North of Molkom” — where lies Angsbacka, described by the filmmakers as a “playground for adults” — are seven of the roughly 1,000 international guests who arrive each year for shamanistic experiences, firewalking and regular “sharing” in a tribal circle.

Given their personalities and contrasting motives, they might have come from central casting: Siddhartha, a Swedish harbor master, is a kind of untrustworthy, lecherous neo-Viking; Peter, who has come with his sons, is trying to decide what to do about his wife back home; Mervi, an older, former career counselor, needs counseling herself; Ljus, the most flower-child-like of American retro hippies.

The two blondes — Regina Lund, a glamorous singer/songwriter, and Marit, who’s more down to earth — are basically the Ginger and Mary Anne of a “Gilligan’s Island” ripe with tree-hugging and tantric sex. And then there’s Nick, an Australian rugby coach who apparently wandered in by accident, is totally immune to the charms of Angsbacka, mocks it hilariously, but — perhaps predictably — comes to see that the place has merit.

The choreography of the film is so fluid, the coverage so complete and the dialogue is so drily funny that this shoestring movie is rather miraculous in its execution, although it’s not much of a stretch to imagine people so devoted to the exploration of’ themselves would be eager to share those selves with anyone who’d watch.

Given the rampaging self-absorption at Angsbacka, it’s hard to consign blame to helmers Corinna Villari-McFarlane and Robert Cannan for the subtle swipes they take at their assorted soul-spelunkers, especially when those subjects are so oblivious to their relative place in the universe.

Production values are first-rate, especially Mike Hill’s sound and Joseph Russell’s HD work, which captures the haunted, shadowy sunlight of a Swedish summer and makes the colors of the surrounding village pop like it was the cover of a kid’s board game.

Which in some ways, it is.

Three Miles North of Molkom

(docu – U.K.)

Production: A Third Eye Prods. presentation. (International sales: Third Eye Film Prods., London). Produced, directed, edited by Corinna Villari-McFarlane, Robert Cannan.

Crew: Camera (color, HD cam), Joseph Russell; sound, Mike Hill. Reviewed at Hot Docs Film Festival, Toronto, April 18, 2008. Running time: 112 MIN. (English dialogue)

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