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All That Matters is Past is Norwegian filmmaker Sara Johnsen’s third film. It’s the story of rival brothers, one of whom displays distinctly psychopathic behaviour. The “evil” brother (Ruud), as he is referred to in the film, has always been obsessed with the “good” brother’s (William’s) other half, Janne (the latter is played masterfully by Maria Bonnevie). The three characters have a history of mutual love, torture, and jealousy that stretches all the way back to their childhood. As adults, Janne and William are reunited after years apart, and decide to hole up in a rustic cabin in the woods for some idyllic fireside love-making. Ruud, of course, cannot leave them in peace, and his campaign of harassment and torture doesn’t end until someone ends up dead.

It’s a stereotype that the Northern European peoples are somehow morbid or prone to fixations on the perverse; in this case, the stereotype rings true. The film is packed full of disturbing imagery: graphic animal butchery, rape, a roadside childbirth, and a toddler’s beheading in a car crash (no spoilers here, just a good old-fashioned warning about what you’re in for — 3 people left the theatre in my screening). Jarring images aside, the film is a captivating and subtle story about what it means to live in and outside of society; it’s about the complexity of companionship and the utter torture of jealousy and obsession. The film could have scaled back on some of its more heavy-handed elements (in addition to the graphic imagery, the classical score is a bit over-the-top at times, especially for a film so subtle, quiet, and methodical). But the themes and characters are presented with remarkable depth and complexity. It’s a testament to the film’s intelligence that we even feel some sympathy for the “evil” brother, despite his horrifying acts of abuse. Visually, the film is stunning: a heartbreaking shot of Ruud lying in a field of goats during a thunderstorm is the height of cinematic poetry.

Is All That Matters is Past Essential TIFF Viewing?

For a certain kind of viewer, I’d highly recommend this film. But you have to be prepared for the pairing of disturbing imagery with a slow, methodical, poetic, and complex narrative about the human psyche. If this sounds like your cup of tea, the film is certainly an achievement, and will definitely spark heated discussion over post-screening cocktails.

All That Matters is Past Screening Times:

  • Friday, September 14, 2012, at Scotiabank Cinema 11 at 9:45 pm

More About All That Matters is Past

All That Matters is Past Trailer

All That Matters is Past Production Gallery

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