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New Release Review - THE REUNION

Not receiving an invite to her school reunion, artist Anna Odell fictionalises the event.



Directed by: Anna Odell

Starring: Anna Odell, Anders Berg, David Nordstrom, Erik Ehn, Fredrik Meyer



"Much will depend on which genre you decide to place The Reunion in. Is it a forensic documentary or a mockumentary? Anna Odell is an arthouse director to watch, in terms of her patient precise film making and taste for difficult subjects."


I was intrigued by the premise of The Reunion, the directorial debut from artist Anna Odell. Rather than a straight forward take on the potentially charged subject of attending a high school reunion, the film is a fictional simulation of a real event to which the writer/director was not invited, and is also a set of reconstructions of the reactions of her school mates to this fiction.
A blend of confessional memoir and social thought-experiment, the first part of the film comes from a very relatable and earnest place and is pretty excruciating viewing (in a good way) as Anna relentlessly drops an anvil on the warm reminiscences of her former classmates, with details of their past cruelty toward her. She leaves herself open to criticisms of self-indulgence as a film maker and as a character (not to mention the more profound sin of being, like, a total buzzkill!) but the verité style of filming and the naturalistic setting, with its embedded camera staying at a natural eyeline, make the film gripping. Some people will be rubbed raw by this first section, and it’s hard to know how much reflects Anna’s true feelings and how much are theatrics and provocation.
The second part of the film breaks the formal conceit of the fictionalised reunion and shows fictionalised versions of Anna’s classmates reacting to seeing her film of the reunion which never happened. Still with me? Good! The result is we get to view the awkward viewing of the awkward reunion, and see the relationships through a different lens. There is a complimentary shift in style to a more cinematic look.
How effective or meaningful this is depends on whether you value the intensely subjective perspective that The Reunion is rooted in. The film is well-made and very direct but may lack thrills or revelation for the casual viewer. On the other hand, anyone who relates to Anna’s motivations may find the film almost triggering. To begin, the film hinges on a sense of whether or not Anna, as she portrays herself, is sympathetic, but this becomes less relevant deeper into the second section, as the nuances we acquire begin to pile up. There are moments of black comedy that you may either savour or squirm at, and some interesting, layered exchanges in the section which may lead a viewer to doubt Anna or empathise with her further. Complexities abound, if you have a taste for them. Much will depend on which genre you decide to place The Reunion in. Is it a forensic documentary or a mockumentary? Anna Odell is an arthouse director to watch, in terms of her patient precise film making and taste for difficult subjects.



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