Sensoria – A Swedish Ghost Story

SensoriaMeet Caroline Menard. She is fleeing a sad life and is starting over. Her marriage was bad. Her child never made it out of her womb. She has just moved into an apartment complex where she struggles to make sense of her life and her new surroundings. Since moving into the new place, it seems that she is always sensing…something.  She hears things in her apartment. She calls out “hello!” No one ever responds. She appears rather uncomfortable when she makes her way to the attic storage or down to the basement laundry room. It’s as if something is always following her.

The other tenants are rather peculiar. They all assume she lives with a family and find it odd that she lives alone. But it seems that each tenant she meets lives alone as well. There’s the finicky older lady who is both noisy and awkward at the same time. There’s the creepy guy upstairs that stares at her. And there’s a blind gentleman, who appears to be the most normal. But something seems a little bit off with his character as well.

Perhaps Caroline isn’t alone. The viewers of the film observe things that she cannot see. From inside the bathroom mirror, after Caroline retreats further into the bathroom, we see a ghost pass by in the adjoining hallway. The door to the kitchen cupboard opens by itself and a dish flies out and shatters.  We see it happen. She only hears it. When she comes into the kitchen to find the broken dish, she assumes it has just fallen.  Throughout the film, we watch as this ghost sneaks little peeks at her here and there. It is stalking her and we want to warn her but we can’t.

Caroline meets a little girl named My in the hallway. She is perhaps the strangest of all the tenants. She won’t tell Caroline her apartment number. Caroline takes a liking to her and My keeps her company. But My is afraid of her grandmother. Who is this grandmother? Does she live in the same apartment complex? This is a mystery.

Sensoria is a Swedish film from Director Christian Hallman. According to imdb.com Hallman’s resume includes several documentaries and short films. Sensoria is his first feature length film. He is listed as the director and the writer. In an interview at rarehorror.com, Hallman cites Roman Polanski’s film The Tenant as a major influence. I cannot draw a comparison because I have yet to see the movie. I must correct that situation soon. What I can do is offer more comments on this film. And I will. Please proceed to the next paragraph.

I like the overall style of the film, which patiently creates a creepy ambiance. The camera is like an artful eye that allows viewers to see the surroundings from unique vantage points. Lanna Ohlsson , who plays Caroline, gives a subtle performance that pays off.

Oh but however, (there’s always a “however”) I have certain issues with the film’s, how should I say it, structure? Is that what I mean. Hmmm…. Hey, I know! I’ll let Caroline herself sum up what I am trying to say:

…. like a jigsaw puzzle. Some pieces don’t fit together, some are badly constructed, some are missing.

Caroline says this to her friend, referring to her own life. Ironically, it sums up the movie as well. The situation regarding the strange tenants is never adequately explained. The tenant’s bewilderment about Caroline’s lifestyle; the “Oh you are living alone. I just assumed that..(you’re living with someone)” statements they utter, I don’t understand  what their points. Towards the end of the film, there are scenes that I think are meant to be plot twists, but gosh darn it, they just don’t make sense to me.  The film teases viewers into thinking there is something more, something hidden underneath the surface plot.  But it is only a tease. Furthermore, there are a lot of slow scenes – Caroline walking down street – going to laundry room -sitting at table eating soup. Earlier I mentioned that I admired the film’s patience. But to a certain extent. The film is patient. I am not. Not all the time anyway. And I believe that many viewers will be impatient  during certain scenes.

But I can’t thrash this film either. So let me end on a more positive note by describing sensoria2some of the brilliant camera work. At one point we see a tire-swing slowly swaying in the wind. This is in the foreground while Caroline walks in background talking on phone.

There are exterior shots of the complex at night from behind thin, curving tree branches. This is the stuff of atmosphere; these are the works of art that hide within the film. They pass by subtly but their presence is meaningful.

In the end, I do recommend this film despite its many flaws. Atmosphere wins. If nothing else, just let the camera be the guide and appreciate what its eye is capturing.

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