SXSW: "X & Y"
Saturday, March 16, 2019 at 8:50PM
Abe Fried-Tanzer in Anna Odell, Charlie Kaufman, SXSW, Synecdoche New York, film festivals

Abe Fried-Tanzer reporting from SXSW

X & Y's stars Mikael Persbrandt and director Anna Odell

If you’ve ever wondered what the Scandinavian version of a Charlie Kaufman movie would look like, here’s your answer. The Oscar-winning writer of such imaginative explorations of inner machinations within the movie business as Being John Malkovich and Adaptation and director of Synecdoche New York. The latter serves as the best comparison for this film, featuring a copy of New York City built inside a warehouse designed to have life truly imitate art, or rather the other way around, for his new play. Synecdoche is broader and more tinted with science fiction than this film, but those who have seen it will see an immediate parallel...

Anna Odell, whose previous feature film was The Reunion, directs and stars as herself in X & Y. Within the film she is making a film that is also a social experiment, centered on actor Mikael Persbrandt (from the Oscar-winning Danish film In a Better World). They meet in an “interrogation room” constructed alongside sleeping quarters, meal spaces, and therapy offices within a warehouse to discuss the (lack of) boundaries in this experiment, a notion that Persbrandt seems open to even if his agents and publicists later call to say that he can’t go as far as he may have promised. Once they are acquainted and Odell has expressed her confusing desire to have an “art baby” with Persbrandt, a concept whose seriousness he cannot discern, other actors arrive to play elements of both of them.

This is an odd movie that’s all about the introspection, manifested externally, and presented in the context of a film that Odell’s producers tell her will be near-impossible to finance, especially as she purports to need to do all the research with the cast on-site before actually writing the script. All the performers identify themselves by their real names, and it becomes truly impossible to separate fact, fiction, and art. Swedish and Danish audiences may be better acquainted with the actors, though there are a few internationally familiar faces, including Vera Vitali from Blind and the great Trine Dyrholm (The CommuneNico 1988).

X&Y by Anna Odell - trailer from New Europe Film Sales on Vimeo.

Recognizing the people involved would be akin to knowing who John Malkovich is or that Charlie Kaufman doesn’t actually have a twin brother named Donald. Without that knowledge the experience is perhaps yet more perplexing. What's more it feels as if Odell piles on extra craziness to ensure sparks. Watching four full-grown adults get into bed together and prepare to sleep as the same person is quite a sight and concept! That's one of the more impactful moments of a highly experimental film that's worth seeing even if it’s challenging to break apart and truly digest.

Article originally appeared on The Film Experience (
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