Film Review: How to Stop a Wedding

In association with the World of Film International Festival

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For his debut feature film, Swedish-based director Drazen Kuljanin made a lot of unconventional decisions. It’s risky enough to attempt to shoot an entire movie in five hours on a moving train, but even the decision to situate almost the entirety of the action in a tiny train compartment with only two characters is enough to raise a few eyebrows. However, the experimental, low-budget approach taken by How to Stop a Wedding turns out to be its strongest asset.

The premise of the film is surprisingly simple: two strangers travelling from Malmö to Stockholm discover that they are both planning to stop the same wedding. Over the course of the journey, this bizarre scenario incites them to confront the complex nature of their disappointments and desires, and open their minds to new and unexpected possibilities. Out of a script that was only 22 pages long, Kuljanin’s film weaves a sophisticated and emotionally resonant narrative that is boundlessly compelling, from the simple humour of the opening scenes right up to the explosive and cathartic conclusion. This combined with riveting performances from the actors makes How to Stop a Wedding deeply and genuinely moving.

But it isn’t only the strength of the characterisation and dialogue that make the film so successful. It’s also breathtakingly stylish and visually stunning, thanks to the unique effect of shooting spontaneously on a high speed train. The extraordinary colours and shadows come to life almost incidentally, but it’s evident that the filmmaking team knew how to capitalize on the mesmerising quality of the changing light. As the train speeds through tunnels and blurred snowy landscapes, the dreamy, sensual effect of dancing light and shadow creates a sense of being suspended in time, which transports the audience into the heart of the action.

Ultimately it’s impossible to define How to Stop a Wedding. More than a rom-com, more than a basic parody, too delightful to be cynical and too sophisticated to be gimmicky, this is a film that lingers on in the imaginations of the audience long after the closing credits, and proves the power of being willing to experiment in contemporary filmmaking.   

[Cat Acheson – @cat_acheson]

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