Film – Suche nach Wahrheit als actionreiches Coming of Age-Drama im Retrogewand

Sometimes, the somewhat unmotivated search for a movie you haven’t seen yet for a cozy night at home can lead to amazing discoveries. Amazing discoveries are also the focus of the Swedish film UFO Sweden (2022) by Victor Danell, which I stumbled upon by chance. By the way, it’s the second Nordic film I watched last weekend where the protagonist eats a hotdog in a scene, which was provided by someone close to them.

Before I digress into memories of a long-ago stay in Copenhagen, which reminded me of this culinary detail, let’s mentally return to Sweden. The film also takes place there, as the title suggests. Denise, a teenager convincingly played by Inez Dahl Torhaug, is encouraged by an unusual event to resume the search for her missing father. She suspects that aliens are involved in his disappearance. Therefore, she goes to the group her father once belonged to, „UFO Sweden,“ hoping for their assistance.

Well, UFO groups sometimes have a bad reputation in real life as well. There are certainly extreme cases, as can be seen with various conspiracy theory followers. In Japan, there was once a new religious movement called Pana Wave Laboratory, where the founder Yuko Chino claimed to have had contact with different beings, including aliens, who would occasionally visit our universe in their spaceship. The group had concerns about electromagnetic waves and tried to protect themselves from them. Additionally, Yuko Chino believed that communists were after her.

However, the fascination with the question of the existence of extraterrestrial life persists and fuels not only imagination and cultural production but also the natural sciences. Without wanting to trivialize certain current right-wing or anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, it can be an interesting thought experiment to consider what if there is more out there. The film explores this unknown, what has not yet been discovered, which brings us back to a „normal“ researcher ethos. What is „normal“ anyway? This question is also addressed in the film. In a way that can happen in relatively closed communities, members of the organization „UFO Sweden“ are called freaks in the film, but they are also somewhat proud of being freaks. This may seem cliché and it is intended to be so, but the film does not take itself too seriously in this regard. It playfully incorporates and embraces the stereotype in a positive way.

Then the film fits into the ongoing retro trend. It is indeed a science fiction film, but things like CGI are kept to a minimum. The film takes place in the 1990s, where Denise is able to hack into various electronic systems using a Gameboy. She also rides a motocross bike. An old Saab also plays a significant role (a nod to „Drive My Car“). The philosopher Byung Chul Han has described in his book „Undinge, Umbrüche der Lebenswelt“ (Berlin: Ullstein, 2021) the tendency of how we are primarily shaped by information today, and how things disappear from our consciousness, not least due to technological developments. This sense of loss may be one of the reasons why things from the 1990s, when the world was not primarily perceived through smartphones, can evoke a feeling of nostalgia.

At the beginning of the film, Denise hangs out with friends who seem to have criminal intentions. She lives with foster parents, and a police officer who once „picked her up“ initially has a good relationship with her and helps her out of trouble. However, the police officer Tomi, played by Sara Shirpey, holds a strong grudge against the UFO organization and is determined to prevent Denise from having anything to do with it. The disappearance of Denise’s father is ultimately connected to the group „UFO Sweden,“ which Denise decides to seek out despite all warnings. As a result, the two become adversaries.

In the mentioned organization, there is an elderly gentleman who meticulously ensures that it is no longer associated with shady activities. The group consciously presents itself as reputable and sometimes dismisses callers if they cannot substantiate their UFO observations with solid evidence. The fact that Denise’s search for the reason behind her father’s disappearance, after some hesitation, causes a stir when the group agrees to help her, does not sit well with Gunnar, a long-serving member of „UFO Sweden“ played by Håkan Ehn. However, the others feel motivated and are on board. A conflict is therefore inevitable.

Denise and her new friends also find themselves in conflict with the law, primarily due to Denise’s methods of obtaining data. Additionally, there is a scientist at a research institute who secretly searches for UFOs. This leads to rivalry.

Die Suche nach der Wahrheit, führt Denise und die Gruppe tatsächlich unter schweren Bedingungen und zu Erkenntnissen und als Zuschauer habe ich mich davon gerne mitreißen lassen – und überraschen, wenn dann doch etwas ganz unerwartetes zum Vorschein kommt.

Dieser action- wie einfallsreiche Coming-of-Age Film bietet überraschende Wendungen und hat dabei die Welt (in Schweden) der 1990er Jahre gut eingefangen. Eine deutschsprachige DVD-Fassung gibt es von Eurovideo.