One of the most remarkable Swedish films of the past year is the autobiographical feature-film debut The Reunion by artist Anna Odell, in which she plays herself. The film was very well received by both the press and the public and has won countless awards at film festivals, Venice and Stockholm among others.
At secondary school, Anna was bullied for years and excluded by almost all her fellow pupils. When, 20 years later, she is the only person not to be invited to a reunion, she decides to make a film about the event. She re-enacts it as if she had been present and confronts everyone with the past. In the film, the situation gets completely out of hand and eventually Anna is roughly ejected from the event by her former tormentors. Up to this point, the film is fiction. In the second half, reality is served up. Anna seeks out her former classmates, one by one, to show them the film and to ask them how they experienced that period, which for Anna was traumatic. When Anna asks for reasons, it becomes clear that issues like indifference and group pressure lie at the root of bullying behaviour rather than an individual’s bad character. The leaders back then have turned in people who stick their heads in the sand. And it seems abundantly clear that both children and adults engage in bullying.
Anna Odell’s honesty gives The Reunion its power. The film presents her perspective and her experience. It is very telling that none of the real bullies is prepared to offer Anna an apology. Reality surpasses fiction. (RvB)