Viewpoints | Feb 01,2020
A bank robbery took place in 1973 in Stockholm, Sweden. Two robbers held four people hostage for five days. before their captured. After being taken into custody, the two would be sentenced to prison.
But this otherwise commonplace hostage situation - despite the five days it took to come to an end - had one strange aspect. The victims had developed an emotional attachment to the captors. It was such a strange phenomenon that the condition was termed Stockholm Syndrome after the name of the city where the robbery took place.
This is a true story that unfolded like a Hollywood movie. After all of the strange things put on the big screen, this one rarely has been made into a movie.
This is understandable. The Stockholm robbery is a story that seems to be too good to be made even for a movie, even if in fact it is true. One would have to be a good enough filmmaker that to make frogs rain, like Paul Thomas Anderson in Magnolia, to pull off such a movie though.
Robert Burdeau, who directed Stockholm, is not Anderson. He is a passing director but not one remotely able to make a film that has such complicated character arcs. Fortunately, he employs actors like Ethan Hawke and Noomi Rapace to make the movie just about watchable.
Burdeau’s entire efforts in the movie are focused towardcreating a plot that explains the condition of how a hostage can fall for her captor. He tries his very best to disperse the initial assumptions people have in first hearing about th story.
Indeed, no one would be blamed for assuming that the hostages were absolutely cuckoo, even if there is a seemingly psychological explanation that says it is merely a coping mechanism for victim’s current dilemma. It is also not unimaginable to assume that the abductors are merely taking advantage of the hostages.
Burdeau tries hard to make Hansson (Hawke) as lovable as possible. He is so funny and smart - unlikely characteristics of either of the actual robbers - that it is not clear how he could have become a robber. Bianca (Rapace) is depicted as normal enough, one that does not find a hostage situation an inopportune scenario under which to have an emotional romantic relationship.
The reality was much more likely to be complicated. Burdeau’s understanding of the Stockholm robbery was that it was not that scary a situation for romance to blossom. In all probability, complicated emotions informed by intricate personal histories presented a scenario where the hostages came to identify with the robbers.
Hawke and Rapace try their hardest to play along. It is their dedication to the characters that elevates this movie and makes it a naive but funny and romantic enough film to pass muster.
In a more just world, the duo would be far more popular. Rapace, star of the Swedish Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, was a fantastic find until her career was derailed by the lame duck Prometheus. Less expensive movies such as Stockholm are unfortunately not doing wonders to her career either.
It is nothing less than a tragedy that Hawke is not a big enough star. The fact that he was not nominated for his breathtaking, nuanced performance in last year’s First Reformed was one of the biggest snubs of the movie industry to one of its greatest gems. Never a part where he seemed second rate, at least there is some solace to be found in the fact that his brilliance would be noticed in movies, like the Before Trilogy, that will live in perpetuity.
PUBLISHED ON May 18,2019 [ VOL 20 , NO 994]
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