on February 02, 2005 by Tim Cogshell
Three stories are intercut -- but not particularly inter-connected -- in "Daybreak," a film from Swedish writer-director Bjorn Runge. To call "Daybreak" a drama is the grandest of understatements. Runge, in his treatment of three marriages on the brink (if not well over it), makes the work of Ingmar Bergman ("Scenes From a Marriage") and Mike Nichols ("Closer" and "Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolfe") look like sitcom fodder.

In the first episode, Rickard (Jakob Eklund), a philandering doctor married to the dark Agnes (Pernilla August), finds his world unraveling as his girlfriend, Sofie (Marie Richardson), announces she is pregnant. Sofie is married to Mats, a friend and colleague of Rickard's. The couples spend an excruciating night together where all is revealed and rendered asunder. And this is the lightest of three stories in "Daybreak," which not only get progressively darker, but crazier as well.

The center piece is about a marriage that ended three years earlier when Olof (Peter Andersson) left his wife for his young nurse. His former wife, Anita (Ann Petren), has not moved on and takes the couple hostage, forcing them to account for every moment of their deceptions. In the third story, a racist couple hires a bricklayer (whose marriage is also in trouble) to wall off their apartment from the outside world when they find out there daughter has married a Nigerian.

The performances here are extraordinary, and the design of the film is also intriguing -- it's set over 24 hours -- but it is all in service of such utterly disheartening material that these attributes do little to relieve the anguish that seems to be "Daybreak's" raison d'etre. While there is the smallest bit of light at the end of these 24 hours of self-inflicted human degradation, it is little respite from the abyss of this very chilly perspective on love. Starring Pernilla August, Jacob Eklund, Marie Richardson, Leif Andree and Peter Andersson. Directed and written by Bjorn Runge. Produced by Clas Gunnarsson. A Newmarket release. Drama. Swedish-language; subtitled. Rated R for language including sexual references. Running time 108 min.

Tags: Jacob Eklund, Marie Richardson, Leif Andree, Peter Andersson, Pernilla August, Bjorn Runge, Sweden, marriage, infidelity, pregnancy, divorce, daughter, interracial

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