"Lilya 4-Ever"

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Posted by Sadie from D006173.N1.Vanderbilt.Edu ( on Tuesday, August 12, 2003 at 1:04AM :

In Reply to: Collateral Damage? posted by StarDrifter from adsl-67-36-189-217.dsl.chcgil.ameritech.net ( on Monday, August 11, 2003 at 11:24PM :

Hi Stardrifter,
I think your prediction will be right.... If anything, I don't think we are truly anticipating the worse, because we are only projecting from the past onto the future & completely unable to see the true future (which could always present Iraqis with even more unpleasant surprises). Anyway, after seeing this disturbing but deeply moving film "Lilya 4-Ever," I can not help but see her predicament as a sort of metaphor for the situation in Iraq. It is bad for them, the Iraqis, under occupation, but only the people who are suffering know how bad the situation truly is. The rest of the "developed" world sees bits & pieces of the Iraqis' struggles, but are unable to comprehend the gravity of the situation. We all live in a comfortable bubble, here in the States especially, & the trauma that the average Iraqi faces on a day-to-day basis is something that is completely unfathomable to those of us in the "developed" world. In a similar way, Lilya suffers, even openly, but no one cares to nor can understand her pain, except for someone else who is in similar shoes. The film really shows how the world can be such a cold place.

By the way, I also recommend this film for anyone (who can see rated R films) who is interested in understanding how a girl, a human being, attempts to cope with the cruel machinery of the child trafficking/sex-trade, which fate, not choice, as thrust her into.
Nashville Scene
August 7-13, 2003
Teenage Wasteland

More than just a harrowing tale of youth in peril, Lilya 4-Ever carries the full force of director Lukas Moodysson's unrelenting civic outrage

By Joshua Rothkopf

Lilya 4-Ever
Dir.: Lukas Moodysson
R, 109 min.

Teens have made our movies into what they are today, not just in terms of global box-office receipts, but content. So given the industry's willingness to capitalize on adolescent tastes, it's a shame how little the movie studios have truly given back. I don't mean the steady stream of James Bonds and Matrix warriors decamping each weekend to slake teens' escapist urges in grand fashion, but actual teen pictures starring recognizable human beings--young people without magical powers or Michael J. Fox's DeLorean. Teens deserve movies that treat their confusion respectfully, not simply as fashionable despair, movies that dare suggest that certain combinations of na´vetÚ, impulsiveness and (yes) the malevolence of adults can result in real damage or worse.

Swedish writer-director Lukas Moodysson appears to have made exactly this his career project; in only three features, he's staked out a territory uniquely devoted to youth in crisis. His 1998 debut, Show Me Love, was that rare thing: a coming-out story (by a straight director) that refused to glamorize its tear-streaked kisses. His follow-up, Together, placed a pair of wise teens at the moral center of a fraying '70s commune made up of irresponsible parents. Moodysson's latest, the punishing Lilya 4-Ever, ups the stakes to serious jeopardy, though without losing the sense of fiercely protective empathy that has become his signature. A tragic spiral on an emotional par with Rebel Without a Cause, it also signals the filmmaker's shift from a sociopolitical perspective of optimism and sweet resignation to one of unrelenting civic outrage.

I wonder if it's underselling Lilya 4-Ever just to describe its first 100 seconds, still the year's most pummeling piece of work: A distraught blond teenager (the astounding Oksana Akinshina) runs haphazardly through the streets of an unnamed European city. The music is threateningly raw, a mid-tempo heavy metal lament from the German band Rammstein, and it synchronizes with her scared expressions, her desperate flight. We don't know yet from what she's escaping, though Moodysson's command is such that we don't care: He cuts the scene in gulping jumps; high above, a bird soars through a belch of factory smoke, but the nod to music videos only brings us closer to Lilya's miserable mind-set. As the guitars climb, she makes her way onto a bridge and stops, the freeway buzzing below. Her bruised gaze is skyward, forlorn, then for an instant as directly outward as an accusation. Terribly, her eyes flick downward; the cut to black is like a slap.

What follows is not exactly easy viewing; it's the story of how Lilya, once a spunky Russian girl, got to that ruined place, abandoned by a callous mother, ignored by a failed government, reduced to prostitution by a brutal economy, betrayed by false love and even, in Moodysson's most daring throughline, by God himself. It'll make you feel miserable. But the inclination to dismiss such a masterful descent for its very effectiveness is a glib one, nor is the movie's squalor and rough trade exclusive to post-Soviet slums. Rather, its tribulations, for all their impact, should be seen metaphorically: In the absence of real guidance, only exploiters will carry sway with the young and impressionable. Deeply moral and a triumph on most every level, Lilya 4-Ever is still, resolutely, a teen movie. But its cumulative indictment should make it essential viewing for the rest of us as well.

-- Sadie
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