Fine Arts and Fest

LFO: A Review

(image courtesy of Google Images)
Lisa Sanchez
Has there ever been a situation in a movie that has made you want to not only crawl out of your skin, but your seat, the theater, the building, and possibly even the universe? That is the kind of unsettled, needling sense of unease and absurdity that is presented in "LFO". If you've never experienced such a shudder-inducing event then it's an absolute must to watch the Scandinavian export. Despite its discomfort, "LFO" also provides moments of respite with situational comedy and little jabs. The film has a special brand of dark, unhinged humor mixed with irreverent sci-fi scenarios and disarming musical tones sure to please (and disturb).

The Swedish film begins with the main character, Robert, fiddling with a number of different synthesizers to try and find a frequency to either cure or help him better understand his "sound allergy". However, Robert is not alone. He has found fellow sufferers on the internet and he shares his experiments and findings with one other man. Eventually, Robert discovers a particular frequency that can relax the body and renders persons completely open to persuasion. If this whole construct isn't bizarre enough for you, don't worry, it gets worse.

Robert begins conducting experiments with the frequency on himself, and then on his new neighbors. With unlimited power over individuals it is easy to see how the storyline leads to corruption. Robert's exercises range anywhere from petty to repulsive as he controls various actions throughout the film. At one point he makes his neighbors, Linn and Simon, live in his house and behave as if they were his deceased wife and son. Robert releases them from this charade by playing the particular frequency and telling them to go home. With no recollection of the past events, Linn and Simon return home with a vague sense of unease and discover all of the food in their house has rotted.

"LFO" is not a black and white representation of good and evil, but simply a swath of multi-layered tones of grey layered throughout the film. The entire idea of consciousness and choice is raised to a point that one has to question how much volition is involved in every day life. On top of that, Robert occasionally uses the tone on himself to help improve his behavior, like when he records himself saying "You do not like sweets" to improve his diet. This is a man who knows he is imperfect, and honestly quite fowl, but is trying through less than honorable ways to make self-improvements.

Eventually, Robert wants to use his newfound powers to save people from themselves and improve the world. It may sound megalomaniacal, but just as when he tried to improve his eating habits, in some twisted way, Robert really is trying to help others. Or he's just trying to mad-scientist his way to the top. The choice really comes down to taking every single action into consideration, which is so out of the scope of reality that there is no moral compass to judge Robert's behavior. It is simply trying to choose the best-case scenario in the most Faustian situation.

There are moments where I wanted "LFO" to end because I couldn't imagine how much worse the character's actions could become. Although I was uncomfortable, I certainly enjoyed the film because I knew that's what it was trying to do. I wasn't feeling this way because I was oversensitive or offended; it was the same reaction I would have to seeing a green light at an intersection. Just "GO". The difference was "GO" in this situation was more like "cringe". However, "LFO" is also very funny in the way it depicts behavior and social interactions. Even the little quirks Robert has while controlling Linn and Simon are amusing. "LFO" turns something that should never be laughed at into something truly hilarious.

"LFO" is a jumble of ideas and scenarios that one would not think could work logically. However, through a combination of well-timed scenes and decisive noise use, the audience is forced to participate in the action on screen. Not only does "LFO" create a picture that forces the audience to ask themselves what they would do in the situation, it also makes them empathize with the characters just by making them completely human. No one (including Robert) is completely innocent or malicious. Every character has been wronged or done wrong in some way and somehow the mind-control is just an extra icing of bizarre on top of the already dysfunctional relationship cake.

The ending of "LFO" was the thing that really made me appreciate the film. Of course, it is not something I can quantify without detailing the entire length of the movie. In short, Robert reaches a place of importance through his mind-control frequency and the result is simultaneously eye-opening, morbid, and of course, funny. The final section of the movie makes you reflect on all those that had come before it and analyze and overanalyze all of the events leading up to the end.

"LFO" is one of those films that are custom-made for the likes of the Cleveland International Film Festival. It's too weird for mainstream Hollywood to even dream of putting into action, while simultaneously too deep to even garner an underground following. It’s just the type of film that speaks in the form of tableau and poses a series of what-ifs to the awe-struck audience. If you don't mind a bit of head-cocked shenanigans in your films, "LFO" is the one for you.
For more of Lisa's opines and full coverage of the 38th Cleveland International Film Festival, CLICK HERE!