Äta sova dö (Eat, Sleep, Die)

There’s only one Swedish language film in this year’s Sydney Film Festival. Even then, it’s not entirely in Swedish, as parts of the film are also in Serbian and Montenegrin. On top of that, there are bits where the parts in Swedish are delivered with accents. My eyes were popping up and down between the subtitles and the screen, as the conversations would sometimes be a combination of all of these languages.

“Äta sova dö” (“Eat, Sleep, Die”) centres on the story of a young woman who was born in Bosnia, but whose family moved to Sweden when she was only a child. She lives with her father in a small town in Southern Sweden, presumably not far from Malmö and Göteborg, as both cities are referenced in the film. The film never explains what happened to her mother, though I assume it would have something to do with the conflicts which occurred in those areas of the former state of Yugoslavia.

Now living in Sweden, the young woman is working in a process line at a food factory, while the father often travels to Norway to do manual labour, the kind of work which has caused him significant physical injury. When the food factory is forced to lay off people, she faces a number of challenges, including whether or not she might have to leave her small town to find work in Malmö.

She shows great passion and personal self-respect as she faces the challenge of finding a new job with few skills, without a driver’s licence, and in a town where there are few employment options.

There’s not a lot that “happens” in this film. It’s very much a “slice of life” movie, where the emphasis is on the characters, their thoughts and feelings. Her relationship with her father is very touching. Also touching is the connection she has with other immigrants living in the town, who feel somewhat isolated from the rest of Swedish society. Tellingly there are moments when you see there’s a “hierarchy of immigrants” based around how well people do or don’t speak Swedish.

I saw the film with a colleague who grew up in Sweden (Swedish father, Australian mother) but who lives here now. As we left the cinema we both agreed it was a lovely film which we enjoyed very much. “The one thing I’ve learned from the film was that I’ve definitely realised I’m very much a Stockholm kind of guy. That countryside looked really bleak”, I told her. We both agreed it would have been a bit of a shock for people attending the film festival expecting a Swedish film to a little happier and a little more colourful. Nonetheless, it’s a lovely film worth seeing if you ever get the chance to.

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