You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Berlin Film Review: ‘The Real Estate’

Tediously coarse characters, deliberately unattractive lensing, and a complete absence of any remotely worthwhile statement make “The Real Estate” an irritating experience.

Axel Petersén, Måns Månsson
Léonore Ekstrand, Christer Levin, Christian Saldert, Olof Rhodin, Carl Johan Merner, Don Bennechi. (Swedish dialogue)

1 hour 27 minutes

There surely won’t be an uglier movie in the Berlin competition this year than “The Real Estate,” nor one so deeply unpleasant on every level. Whether it’s the tediously coarse characters, some of whom appear to have been poached from a Swedish “Twin Peaks” knock-off, the deliberately unattractive lensing that makes you gasp for air, or simply the absence of any remotely genuine statement, this patience-tester about a hard-living dame inheriting an apartment building feels like the sort of thing cobbled together in a hash-induced haze by a couple of homeboys with nothing to say. The fact that co-directors Axel Petersén (“Avalon”) and Måns Månsson (“The Yard”) made accomplished films before now is even more perplexing, as is the head-scratching discovery that “The Real Estate” somehow made it through multiple film labs. It’ll be easier to offload a fire-damaged tenement in Trenton than find buyers for this misguided housing project.

Can it really be that the directors’ raison d’être was to call attention to overpriced housing in Stockholm? Hard to believe since they barely bother showing any of the tenants in the run-down building Nojet (Léonore Ekstrand) inherits from her father. She’s just back from a couple of decades away in Spain, where years of smoking and partying have left their mark on her hardened face. What she finds is discouraging: Her speech-impaired brother Mickey (Olof Rhodin) has mismanaged the building, and together with his alcoholic son Chris (Christian Saldert), they’ve encouraged illegal sublets while pocketing the fees.

Nojet wants to sell and asks advice from her father’s lawyer Lex (Christer Levin), a pervy-looking older guy sidelining as a music producer who’s styled like a 1970s shyster. His advice: Offload quickly, because the moment the tenants get wind of a possible sale, they’ll form a co-op and preempt any transaction. She gets renewed energy after a cocaine-fueled romp with a potential buyer in a scene that would nab hands-down the cinema equivalent of the Bad Sex in Fiction award, but when the guy disappears, and her panicking nephew attacks her, she decides it’s time to get tough.

If there was any logic to start with, it’s completely jettisoned by the end, not to mention the bizarre appearance of Lex’s protégé Don (Don Bennechi, looking like Brando as Col. Kurtz with heavily made-up eyebrows) dropping in to record a ballad about homelessness. Given that everyone but Ekstrand are non-professionals — and that the intuitive actress herself entered the business because she’s Petersen’s aunt — the answer probably springs from the idea that these eccentrics are presumed to exude some Lynchian aura of “cool,” when in fact, they’re merely ridiculous.

Even worse than the hipster misanthropy are the dyspeptic visuals, mostly composed of unattractive handheld close-ups. Tightly composed so there’s barely any daylight apart from some rare medium shots when Nojet goes to Lex’s farm, the film is awash in lurid fluorescent lighting or annoyingly plunged in partial darkness, with characters shown against cement walls or other harsh materials that offer no escape, including aurally since the irritating soundscape assaults with high-pitched noise. Sure, its deliberate, but without a demonstrable reason for all this ugliness, it’s hard to avoid the feeling that we’ve just been taken for a ride.

Berlin Film Review: 'The Real Estate'

Reviewed at Berlin Film Festival (competing), Feb. 17, 2018. Running time: 87 MIN. (Original title: “Toppen av Ingenting”)

Production: (Sweden-UK) A Flybridge, Across the Alley, Entertainment Intl., Giants & Toys production, in collaboration with C More, SVT. (International sales: The Match Factory, Cologne.) Producers: Sigrid Helleday, Måns Månsson. Co-producers: Aleksander Karshikoff, George Cragg, Calle Iseberg, Christian Rehnfors.

Crew: Directors: Axel Petersén, Måns Månsson. Screenplay: Petersén. Camera (color): Månsson. Editors: George Cragg, Anna Brunstein. Music: Tom Skinner, Zapatilla, Axel Boman, Don Bennechi.

With: Léonore Ekstrand, Christer Levin, Christian Saldert, Olof Rhodin, Carl Johan Merner, Don Bennechi. (Swedish dialogue)

More Film

  • Swiss Film Award Winners Led By

    ‘Those Who Work,’ ‘Chris the Swiss’ Top 2019 Swiss Film Awards

    Two debut features in writer-director Antoine Russbach’s “Those Who Work” and Anja Kofmel’s animated documentary “Chris the Swiss,” were the big winners at Friday night’s Swiss Film Awards, notching three plaudits each. Sold by Be For Films, “Those Who Work,” stars Belgian actor Olivier Gourmet, who has appeared in every single film by Jean-Pierre and [...]

  • Lupita Nyong'o as Adelaide Wilson doppelgänger

    Box Office: Jordan Peele's 'Us' to Easily Surpass 'Get Out' in Killer Opening Weekend

    Jordan Peele’s horror-thriller “Us” will likely slay the box office competition this weekend. It’s projected to generate an impressive $64 million through the weekend at 3,741 sites in North America, early estimates showed Friday. It’s over-performing recent forecasts, which had ranged from $38 million to $50 million. It should wind up with about $27 million [...]

  • France's Investment in Movies Plummeted in

    France's Film Production Levels Remained High in 2018, But Local Investment Plummeted

    While the volume of production in France remained high with 300 films made in 2018, investment in local films dropped by 15.2% to €1.12 billion ($1.26 billion), hit by the sharp decline in financing from traditional distribution deals and TV channels. Among the 300 films produced last year, 237 were French-majority films and 63 French-minority [...]

  • Unicorn Store Trailer

    Watch the First Trailer for Brie Larson's Directorial Debut, 'Unicorn Store'

    Brie Larson is seeking salvation from Samuel L. Jackson in Neflix’s first trailer for her directorial debut, the offbeat comedy-drama “Unicorn Store.” Larson is portraying a lonely 20-something dreamer who’s been kicked out of art school. She’s forced to move back home with her parents and take a temp job at a PR agency. But [...]

  • Patti Rockenwagner

    Chief Brand Officer Patti Röckenwagner Leaves STX Entertainment (EXCLUSIVE)

    Patti Röckenwagner is leaving STX Entertainment where she has served as the company’s chief brand officer. She announced her departure in a memo to staff, in which she said she was departing for “another opportunity.” The exit is an amicable one. Röckenwagner joined STX in 2016 as its chief communications officer before being promoted to [...]

  • Gabrielle Union

    10 Things We Learned at Variety’s 2019 Entertainment Marketing Summit

    Variety’s 2019 Entertainment Marketing Summit, which brought top execs to Hollywood’s NeueHouse on Thursday, covered considerable ground. From cutting through the noise in an oversaturated media landscape to welcoming exciting technology like virtual reality, industry veterans offered insight into what to expect from the marketing world in coming years. Here are 10 things we learned [...]

  • Orange Studio, OCS Join Forces On

    Orange Studio, OCS Join Forces on Flurry of High-Profile Series

    Following “The Name of the Rose”(pictured) and “Devils,” France’s Orange has unveiled four internationally-driven series projects as part of its commitment to step into premium original shows with its film/TV division Orange Studio and pay TV group OCS both of board. Currently in development, the social western “Cheyenne & Lola,” the dance-filled workplace drama “The [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content