Blame it on our staggered viewing of the film, or to the small viewing screen of the laptop — with the 46″ TV screen shattered and now beyond repair — or attribute our discordance with this film to its confused theme, I’m not quite sure.
On the film critics’ list of The New York Times, Simon & the Oaks (2012) took off with a splendid, larger than life but almost magical beginning. The film is about this young boy raised in occupied Sweden, during World War II. Well, the story also draws in another young boy – affluent, but of Jewish background. The two boys are buddies at school and soon, in a strange twist and turn of events, each of the boys gets drawn to the other boy’s father. Simon, who used to spend his leisure time in solitude, conjuring images in his mind sitting on the branches of the oak is suddenly disgusted with this intimidating tree. Instead, he begins to enjoy the company of his friend Isak’s father. Introduced to concerts and culture, Simon easily gets used to the fine living. On the other hand, Isak, bored with history lessons at their elite school tries his hand at carpentry. He spends long hours building hundreds of chairs in the shed, under the tutelage of Simon’s father. Simon and Isak grow into young teenage men, while war wages in Europe under dark clouds of the Holocaust.
All along, the smothering from mother Karin, and well-meant sermonizing from his hardworking father Erik, irk Simon. The audience sees that they seem to be hiding from him a deep secret which they share with Inga – Erik’s sister. Simon thinks Inga is weird and stays away from her when she visits. On the other hand, Isak’s father Ruben has some dark secrets hiding behind blazing curtains.
Set against a backdrop of a serene Scandinavian seaside town in Sweden, during the period of much historical drama, surprisingly the film depicts almost none of the carnage. It departs from films set in this period, sparing the audiences from the visual horrors of say, The Pianist, or Schindler’s List and many others.
The story has the main plot and layered sub-plots with the families intertwining, the characters emoting superbly, and yet… towards the end of the film you’re left with a feeling of incompleteness. I’m not sure why. Perhaps I was not quite in the mood – yeah, with Diwali celebrations ongoing, perhaps this was a wrong choice of films we’d picked to watch through NetFlix. But if you’ve seen the film, or will watch it some point then do share your views here. I’d love to read and perhaps watch the film again with a fresh mind or in a different mood. 🙂
For a peek, or a preview, watch the trailer.