All Things Fair

on March 08, 1996 by Sean O'Neill
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Quick which of this year's Oscar-nominated films included such scenes as (a) a group of schoolboys watching a young man measure a classmate's penis to settle a betting pool, (b) full frontal nudity of a barely pubescent girl as she attempts to seduce a neighbor, and (c) a 15-year-old sniffing his beautiful teacher's chair? Obviously, it's not "Babe." The movie in question is "All Things Fair," the Swedish nominee for best foreign film. If ever a film made clear the differences between American and Scandinavian attitudes toward sexuality, it's fair to say that this is it. Just imagine how this story would be treated in Hollywood hands: An adolescent student becomes fixated on his teacher and soon learns, to his great surprise and even greater gratification, that she has the hots for him too. An affair ensues and the hijinks continue until he dumps her for a girl closer to his own age, whereupon the scorned woman flunks him, setting the stage for his strange revenge.
Could be a "Porky's" movie, couldn't it? But as directed by Bo Widerberg (best known stateside for 1967's "Elvira Madigan"), the tale of young Stig (Widerberg's son, Johan) and his involvement with schoolteacher Viola (Marika Lagercrantz) is a sadly lyrical minor masterwork that's as concerned with Stig's adventures in World War II-era Malmo as with his sex life. Rather than opting for cartoon-level exploitation, "All Things Fair" is a frank exploration of a somewhat peculiar young man in a very particular time and place, a portrait painted in shades of gray. Just like life. Starring Johan Widerberg, Marika Lagercrantz, Tomas Von Bromssen and Karin Huldt. Directed and written by Bo Widerberg. Produced by Per Holst. A Nordisk release. Drama. Swedish-language; subtitled. Unrated. Running time: 123 min.
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