You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Rotterdam Film Review: ‘Something Must Break’

A determinedly transgressive romance of intermittent interest from Ester Martin Bergsmark.


Saga Becker, Iggy Malmborg, Shima Niavarani, Mattias Ahlen.

Transgender Sebastian/Ellie falls hard for straight-identified Andreas in “Something Must Break,” a determinedly transgressive romance of intermittent interest from Ester Martin Bergsmark. Though the transgender helmer (“She Male Snails”) makes some reasonable points about the boundary-less nature of desire and love, he seems to think that marginalized people are, ipso facto, fascinating — if only it were true. Strong scenes compete with moody filler and pseudo-provocation, making for an uneven though at times worthwhile experience. Rotterdam’s Tiger award will help attract edgy fest bookings, while queer showcases were inevitable takers anyway.

As with far too many pics whirling around notions of identity, “Something Must Break” has sporadic voiceover narration, here featuring Sebastian (Saga Becker) remarking, “In the darkness, amongst the shadows, is where I’m free,” and similar stuff. Roommate Lea (Shima Niavarani) tells him he has no sense of reality, thereby explaining some of the character’s more ambiguous stares and behavior. With his long red hair, prominent nose ring and thin, aquiline features, Sebastian’s permeable gender identification goes hand-in-hand with his physical presentation.

He’s rescued by the James Dean-ish Andreas (performance artist Iggy Malmborg) during a restroom bashing; by chance, they meet again a short time later and the two engage in various prankish behaviors in and out of bed. Then Andreas announces, “I’m not gay,” to which Sebastian replies, “Me neither.” In one of recent cinema’s more romantic lines, Andreas responds, “You’re so beautiful I want to vomit.”

Andreas’ revelation of heterosexuality comes as something of a surprise to both Sebastian and the audience, the former especially because his transgender identification means he sees a fluidity in relationships that Andreas has a hard time accepting. Increasingly, Sebastian wants to be called Ellie, and struggles with the idea of erasing his Sebastian self to let Ellie come to the fore. Andreas can’t deal and puts distance between them, yet the attraction won’t go away.

Sebastian’s sullenness in the first half wears thin and does little to make him intriguing, though he takes on a more intelligently defiant tone in the better second half as he hesitantly gains confidence. The script, co-written by Bergsmark and Eli Leven, his collaborator on “She Male Snails,” owes Andreas’ character a bit more development beyond his rather unformed conception as a confused straight guy with a biker jacket: What is there about Sebastian that draws him in and takes hold of his desires?

The director often aims for a certain poetic interiority, which he betrays with scenes of groaning unsubtlety. The opening image of pink roses followed by closeups of large thorns is OK, but is it really necessary, following a low point in Sebastian’s psyche, to cut to a shot of a wall being knocked down? Even sillier is a sequence set to Peggy Lee’s yearningly ethereal rendition of “You’re My Thrill,” with Sebastian being peed on in slow-mo while posed like Jesus in a Pieta. Perhaps Bergsmark meant to shock the bourgeoisie — hardly the target demographic — but instead it just plays like immature (and unsuccessful) provocation.

Slightly shaky lensing, with frequent closeups and occasional graininess, imparts a sense of dreamlike breathlessness that suits the film’s tone and matches the edginess of the characters. The varied musical selections are generally well chosen (with the exception of “You’re My Thrill”), yet the samplings cry out for more forceful integration.

Rotterdam Film Review: 'Something Must Break'

Reviewed at Rotterdam Film Festival (competing), Jan. 25, 2014. (Also in Gothenburg Film Festival — Nordic, competing; Berlin Film Festival — market.) Running time: 84 MIN. Original title: “Nanting maste ga sonder”


(Sweden) A TriArt Film release of a Garagefilm Intl., Film i Vast, Ljud & Bildmedia, Tonemestrene production. (International sales: Outplay Films, Montreuil, France.) Produced by Anna-Maria Kantarius. Co-producers, Jessica Ask, Daniel Thisell. Executive producers, Rebecka Lafrenz, Mimmi Spang.


Directed by Ester Martin Bergsmark. Screenplay, Eli Leven, Bergsmark, inspired by the novel “You Are the Roots That Sleep Beneath My Feet and Hold the Earth in Place” by Leven. Camera (color), Lisabi Fridell, Minka Jakerson; editors, Bergsmark, Andreas Nilsson, Marlene Billie Andreasen, Hanna Storby; music supervisor, Rasmus Thord; production designer, Elin Magnusson; costume designer, Erik Annerborn; sound, Jess Wolfsberg; casting, Siri Hjorton-Wagner, Alexi Carpentieri.


Saga Becker, Iggy Malmborg, Shima Niavarani, Mattias Ahlen.

More Film

  • Mara Watkins Nabhaan Rizwan Steven Wouterlood

    Diverse Talents Pepper Variety's Fifth 10 Europeans to Watch List

    Variety has unveiled its fifth edition of 10 Europeans to Watch, spotlighting 10 rising talents from across the continent who are poised for breakthroughs in 2019. The selection includes emerging actors, directors, showrunners and cinematographers from six countries whose dynamic talents are being showcased on screens big and small, and on both sides of the camera. [...]

  • Glass Movie

    Box Office: 'Glass' Shines Overseas With $48.5 Million Weekend

    After autobots and aquatic kings have dominated foreign markets over the past few weeks, a different kind of hero has risen to the top of box office charts. M. Night Shyamalan’s “Glass” is the new champ overseas, pulling in $48.5 million from international territories. The supernatural thriller, a sequel to 2000’s “Unbreakable” and 2016’s “Split,” debuted [...]

  • Yalitza Aparicio as Cleo, Marco Graf

    'Roma' and 'The Favourite' Lead London Critics' Circle Winners

    After ruling the U.S. critics’ award circuit, “Roma” continued its dominance on the other side of the pond, as the London Film Critics’ Circle announced its winners tonight. A week after landing seven BAFTA nominations, Alfonso Cuarón’s Mexico City memory piece landed film of the year and director of the year honors from the group [...]

  • M. Night Shyamalan Should Stop Writing

    The Big Twist M. Night Shyamalan Needs: He Should Stop Writing His Own Scripts (Column)

    Quick, name the greatest film by each of the following directors: Alfred Hitchcock, Steven Spielberg, David Lean, Robert Altman, Roman Polanski, Kathryn Bigelow, Jonathan Demme. Answers will vary (mine would be: “Psycho,” “Saving Private Ryan,” “Lawrence of Arabia,” “Nashville,” “Chinatown,” “The Hurt Locker,” “The Silence of the Lambs”), but whatever your taste, odds are that [...]

  • Andy Vajna Dead: 'Rambo' Producer and

    Andy Vajna, 'Rambo' Producer, Dies at 74

    Andy Vajna, executive producer of several “Rambo” films as well as “Total Recall” and several “Terminator” movies, died Sunday in Budapest after a long illness. He was 74. The Hungarian National Film Fund confirmed his death, calling him a “dominant figure in the Hungarian and international film industry” who was responsible for the development of [...]

  • Glass trailer

    Box Office: 'Glass' Dominates MLK Weekend With $47 Million

    M. Night Shyamalan’s “Glass” topped box office charts during the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, collecting $40 million over the weekend for a four-day sum of $47 million. If estimates hold, “Glass” will come in behind “American Sniper” ($107 million) and “Ride Along” ($48 million) as the third-best showing for both January and MLK holiday [...]

  • FICG Names Estrella Araiza As New

    Estrella Araiza To Head Up Guadalajara Intl Film Festival

    The Guadalajara Intl. Film Festival (FICG) has announced that Estrella Araiza, until now the festival’s head of industry and markets and director of the Guadalajara IntL. Film Festival in Los Angeles, has been promoted to the position of general director of the prominent Mexican festival. She replaces Ivan Trujillo, appointed director of TV UNAM. More [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content