ALL THINGS FAIR - DVD review

Widerberg not only wrote and directed this film, he also edited it as well and he probably could have used an objective view to trim it down.

William D. Lee's picture
William
Lee

The Swedish native Bo Widerberg began his career as a novelist and moved into film criticism during the early 1960's. He denounced his peer Ingmar Bergman as someone who ignored the everyday issues of contemporary culture. Widerberg would follow in the lead of fellow critics like Godard and Truffaut and enter into the world of filmmaking. With "All Things Fair," he would recieve a nomination for Best Foreign Language Film during the 1996 Oscars. It was also his last film, as Widerberg would die of stomach cancer in 1997.

Widerberg would cast his son, Jonah, in the lead role of Stig, a teenage schoolboy on the brink of puberty. In fact, so are his many classmates as they spend their time measuring penis growth and discussing how the female body works during intercourse. Of course, they have no clue what they're talking about until a new teacher, Viola, comes into their lives. What starts as a simple infatuation turns into a full blown affair between Stig and Viola.

While Stig makes the first move (a stolen kiss in the hallway), it is Viola who becomes the aggressor in the relationship. When he's in class, she flashes him from beneath her desk. When he's not in class, she has him wait in her apartment until coming home. To make things more complicated is Viola's husband, Kjell (or Frank as he likes to be called). Kjell is a traveling salesman who's never around and frequently drinks. He's even fashioned a cuckoo clock to dispense gin every hour. Kjell seems to be too drunk to care what Stig is doing to his wife, yet they bond in a father-son way. Once Stig finds companionship with someone his own age, he finds breaking up with Viola more difficult than he could have imagined.

Though Viola has a little Mrs. Robinson in her, Stig is certainly no Dustin Hoffman. However, they bring a more subdued quality to their characters. Acting aside, the plot moves at a fractured and slow pace. Subplots come and go and sometimes have little effect on each other. There's an episodic nature to the story as it switches from Stig and Viola, to Stig and Kjell, etc. Widerberg not only wrote and directed this film, he also edited it as well and he probably could have used an objective view to trim it down.

VIDEO
The video is presented in anamorphic widescreen with an aspect ratio of 1.78:1. While there isn't anything glaringly wrong with the transfer, it's not quite as sharp as it should be.

AUDIO
The audio is presented in 2.0 stereo in its original language track. This is a dialogue heavy film and everything comes through crisp and clear.

EXTRAS
Only extra features on this DVD are text-based filmographies for Bo and Jonah Widerberg. There's also a booklet with liner notes.

FILM VALUE
There is something interesting to be found, but it's hard to see beneath the plodding and muddled plot. Other critics have written that the scenes with Stig and Kjell slow down the main story with Viola, but I found them quite fascinating and wished we could have seen more between the three.

Ratings

Video
6
Audio
5
Extras
2
Film Value
5