Monday, September 21, 2009

Review - Three Miles North of Molkom...

The title of Robert Cannan and Corinna Villari-McFarlane's documentary refers to the location of Ängsbacka, an idyllic location somewhere in Sweden. Each year, this forest stages the One Mind Festival, a fortnight-long compendium of new-age rituals through which like-minded individuals from around the world hope to achieve inner peace, a sense of oneness with nature...or something. Three Miles North of Molkom... introduces us to a single "sharing group", that will provide the film's main focus, and they're an eclectic bunch. Siddharta is an imposing figure who wants to meet his "Goddess," Regina is a Swedish pop star, Mervi is a middle-aged woman who can't produce saliva, Ljus is a wispy, ethereal hippy who has spent most of his life around goats; and then there's Nick, the gruff Australian rugby player. Nick isn't quite sure what he's doing here, and he spends much of the film's first half griping amusingly about "bloody tree-huggers" who are constantly spouting "spiritual mumbo-jumbo."

For much of the film, I empathised with Nick's discomfort at being surrounded by so much hippy nonsense, but I was more riled by the lack of structure the filmmakers had imposed on their documentary, which quickly grows repetitive and fails to develop any point-of-view on proceedings. The participants are allowed ample time in front of the camera to waffle about their beliefs and their connection, or lack of, with those around them, but Cannan and Villari-McFarlane never probe too deeply or question any of the statements made by their subjects. The film could have benefitted from a more disciplined approach to editing as well, with a number of sequences being allowed to drag on long after they have ceased to hold the attention.
Three Miles North of Molkom... is, however, very amusing at times. Aside from Nick's cynical approach in the film's first half, many laughs occur from the absolute conviction so many of the participants approach their tasks with. It also features one jaw-dropping scene, in which the fragile, middle-aged Mervi is invited to "protect" herself from onrushing energy, with a result that is simultaneously hilarious and horrifying. That moment made me gasp aloud and had me shaking with laughter for several minutes afterwards, but it's also the film's last highlight, and the picture subsequently drifts aimlessly towards an unsatisfying close. Even Nick learns to take something away from this odd spiritual journey, but I wasn't quite as ready to drop my sense of scepticism, and I'd had more than my fill of hugging and chanting long before the curtain came down on this year's festivities.