Lukas Moodysson’s Lilya 4-Ever is a moving drama rife with social commentary about the dissonance of human experience. It’s a story of joy and sorrow, living and surviving, hope and despair.
Release Date: 25 April 2003 (UK)
Director: ukas Moodysson
Writer: ukas Moodysson
Stars: Oksana Akinshina, Artyom Bogucharskiy, Pavel Ponomaryov
The Cathartic Experience of Lilya 4 Ever
Lukas Moodysson’s Lilya 4 Ever is a moving drama rife with social commentary about the dissonance of human experience. It’s a story of joy and sorrow, living and surviving, hope and despair. Loosely based on true cases of prostitution and human trafficking in Sweden, the film paints a picture of the hardships people involved in such practices have to go through.
Oksana Akinshina plays the titular Lilya, a young girl living the in slums of a Russian town, who is suddenly abandoned by her own mother (Lyubov Agapova) when she leaves to start a new life in America. Lilya soon finds herself starting a new life that spirals more and more into tragedy. Her Aunt Anna (Liliya Shinkaryova), though tasked to care for her, forces her out of her own home and into a more squalid dwelling. Lilya’s woes are only beginning, though, as more are heaped upon her as the story progresses. She soon finds that she has to fend for herself, and is forced to sell her body to make a living. The only reprieve from her troubles comes in the form of a young boy named Volodya (Artyom Bogucharsky), with whom she forms a tender friendship with. She meets a man named Andrei (Pavel Ponomaryov) who promises her love and a better life in Sweden. All is not as it seems, though, as what appears to be a budding romance ultimately ends in deception and misery. Lilya’s new life in Sweden is an existence of abuse and despair from which there seems to be no escape from.
The cinematography by Ulf Brantå captures the plot’s gritty and desperate atmosphere, as well as the moments of intense emotion. The pacing is quite good also, as spells of happiness are broken up by periods of hardship, and moments of quiet and uplifting glimmers of hope are interspersed all throughout. The film makes excellent use of foreshadowing, as well, and so the irony injected into each unrelenting misfortune that befalls Lilya throughout the film becomes all the more tragic.
It’s remarkable how the film presents itself with an air of verisimilitude. Lilya’s life onscreen unfolds in such a manner that doesn’t seem at all too contrived. Somewhere out there, there are thousands of other people like her, whose destitution traps them into a world of violence and sexual slavery, and the film presents audiences with what could very well be a glimpse into their lives. True, there are some rather fantastical elements used in the film’s latter parts, and the religious overtones associated with it might not sit well with some viewers; but still, odd as it may sound, the use of angels and an afterlife into what has mostly been a realist venture feels like an appropriate element more than a tacked-on purple patch. The use of such imagery not only completes the film’s theme of hope amidst despair and presents it lucidly, but it also leaves users a decidedly ambiguous end, and they are left to wonder whether they should feel happy, sad or apathetic about all that they’ve seen as the credits roll.
Awards: Stockholm Film Festival, Rouen Nordic Film Festival, Gijón International Film Festival, Guldbagge Awards
Nominations: Independent Spirit Awards, Robert Festival, Political Film Society, European Film Awards, Chlotrudis Awards, Guldbagge Awards, Nordic Council