TIFF14 REVIEW: Knuffen [The Shove] [2014]

Score: 8/10 | ★ ★ ★

Rating: NR | Runtime: 15 minutes | Release Date: 2014 (Sweden)
Director(s): My Sandström
Writer(s): My Sandström

“I was sentenced to a shoving last night”

With an opening credit sequence recalling a 70s vibe via Quentin Tarantino, My Sandström‘s surrealist take on the paranoia of uncertainty delivers humor rather than the pulpy drama you may expect from the grainy picture and thick yellow text. There is a lot of this sort of playing with expectation involved right down to Tobbe’s (Magnus Sundberg) giant of a man being crippled by the absurdist “sentence” given to him by an inspector (Annafrida Bengtsson) of unknown origins walking the streets with a clipboard and authority. Here he is—a bar bouncer ensuring the safety of his patrons by refusing to let a drunk inside—being told that his shoving a belligerent guest has earned him one in return.

Knuffen [The Shove] is therefore a gritty take on the brilliantly hilarious “How I Met You Mother” thread that went by the name “Slapsgiving”. If Martina the inspector told him his victim would be able to get right up and push him in retribution, all would be fine. Instead she tells him his penance will be fulfilled some time in the next two weeks—a sentence meant to be psychologically overwhelming rather than physically. He now must walk with head on a swivel, constantly wondering who will suddenly break free from the periphery to wind up and push him as hard as they can with two hands. This means he has to consciously avoid cliffs, railings, or anywhere else the fall might cause lasting damage or death.

Driven batty, a wedge forms between he and girlfriend Sandra (Hanna Ullerstam) until he cannot take the waiting anymore. In great subtle fashion, however, Sandström ensures the torment provides exponentially greater punishment than any shove ever could. It’s an existential conundrum making us wonder about our own lives and how procrastination or leaving things in the hands of others ultimately wrecks our psyches to the point of being unable to move. There are consequences to our actions and things we do to others have a way of coming back around karmically if we aren’t careful. Nevertheless, nothing anyone does in response to those acts can ever compete with the number our own guilt performs on us in the interim.

courtesy of TIFF

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