If you blend together murder, a tangled love-triangle, sibling rivalry, sexual violence, the isolation of rural Norway and people trafficking in a modern film then people will inevitably think it’s Nordic noir. And in some ways, ‘All That Matters Is Past’ conforms to many of the conventions of the genre. But it’s hardly a fast-paced action-adventure crime-thriller of the Dragon Tattoo type. There is no mystery here, no police procedural or political intrigue.
Instead, All That Matters Is Past harks back to an older style of film-making. It’s subdued, almost distant in its tone, like a suspended slice of stylish art-house world cinema. It gleefully skips around an extended timeline without explanation. Much is left unsaid. merely hinted at, and the viewer must contribute by filling the blanks in the narrative. The title itself suggests an ambience of stifled hopelessness which pervades the film… and it’s probably very telling that in the original Norwegian that whole sentiment is reduced to a single word, ‘uskyld’.
The muffled emotional atmosphere contrasts with the disturbing narrative, which is told partly in flashback, and starts with the loss of innocence in childhood. Every revelation in this story of loss and love subverts expectations and twists the obvious interpretation. Boy meets girl, and boy and girl fall in love. In doing so they shatter an already existing relationship between the boy and his brother: we’re tempted to believe that the girl is automatically the innocent but all is not what it seems…
Throughout this film, the sublime photography contrasts the turmoil of the characters’ distress with the fantastical woodland setting, a childhood idyll which also serves as the adult lovers’ hideaway. Take nothing at face value: no one is clear-cut good or bad. One brother is an angelic, tousled-haired blonde; his resentful sibling is physically dark and capable of extreme cruelty. But one of them hides from his guilt and shame and eventually plots to kill the other: which of them is the greater sinner?
All That Matters Is Past includes some graphic scenes intended to draw a response. The birds-in-flight moment was particularly powerful. The starkly matter-of-fact rape scene is vividly contrasted with a birth scene, and no doubt some viewers will be shocked more by the birth than by the forced sex.
Little of it is easy-watching, despite the bucolic beauty of some of the scenes. At its core this film explores a disturbing, psychosexual three-way dynamic of dependence and desire. It’s thought-provoking and, at times, confusing. It’s also a very long way from The Bridge or The Killing, so look elsewhere if you prefer more action and less contemplation.
There were no special features on our preview disc.