VHS collector and borderline alcoholic Ennio Midena (Stefan Sauk) is facing eviction and struggling with the breakdown of a relationship. Holed up in a pokey basement, Ennio is determined to open a new video store, despite demand for the outdated format being very low. He meets Simone (Lena Nilsson), an alcoholic obsessed with the 80s, who wants to sell him a box of VHS tapes including one called Zombie, which Ennio realises is very valuable. Shortly after Ennio is contacted by a buyer known only as Faceless (Carolin Stoltz) who wants to take Zombie off his hands for a very nice price. Arranging the transaction, Ennio panics when he finds Zombie has gone and he tries to figure out who stole it before Faceless comes knocking.
Videoman is the feature film directorial debut of Swedish writer/director Kristian A. Söderström. It’s an interesting choice for the Arrow Video FrightFest slate because it’s quite possibly not what people are going to expect to see at a horror festival. An intriguing film, Videoman draws on several films genres combining comedy and drama with a thriller edge. Perhaps the most surprising thing about Videoman is the amount of heart and emotion it has. On the surface the film is about Ennio trying to find out who stole his valuable VHS tape but actually it’s about human connection between two people who are remarkably similar yet seemingly unlikely to cross paths with one another.
The stories of Ennio and Simone interweave with one another. While Ennio is narrowing down the list of suspects that have had access to his basement, Simone is drowning herself in booze just to get through another day at work being belittled by her smarmy boss Chefen (Martin Wallström). Both characters are products of their own grief with Ennio battling to accept that his relationship has ended and Simone distraught over her estranged daughter’s constant avoidance of her. Their chance meeting creates a strong bond that neither seem to fully understand but both become reliant on each other.
Alongside this beautiful realised story about two lonely souls connecting, Söderström injects a bit of menace into the proceedings. The more Ennio starts to panic about not being able to find the VHS tape, the darker his story gets as begins to fear the consequences of coming face-to-face with the mysterious Faceless. It’s interesting how the film can make you feel a wave of emotion one minute, then on the edge of your seat the next. Söderström’s direction is masterful and he understands how to tease the audience and keep you hooked.
I can’t lavish enough praise on the performances of Stefan Sauk and Lena Nilsson. Both actors are well-known in their native Sweden and in Videoman they give award-worthy performances. Sauk really brings out the small moments of comedy in his character while Nilsson explores the devastating reality of hers. I was almost moved to tears on several occasions by both actors and wanted to. Get up and give them a standing ovation when the credits began. They really are magnificent.
Quite simply put, Videoman is an extraordinary film. It wasn’t at all what I was expecting to see but I already can’t wait to see it again. From the 80s influenced synth soundtrack through to the flawless direction and writing of Söderström, Videoman is an absolute triumph. It’s dark, it’s funny, it’s edgy and it’s a remarkable story of human connection in a world where people are glued to their devices and disconnected from reality. Bravo Kristian A. Söderström!
Cast: Stefan Sauk, Lena Nilsson, Morgan Alling, Martin Wallström Director: Kristian A. Söderström Writer: Kristian A. Söderström Certificate: TBC Duration: 93 mins Released by: World of Film AB